Rabies is a deadly virus that attacks the central nervous system which is spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. It is usually spread when you are bitten or scratched by either a wild or domesticated animal that is infected with the virus. Infection by scratches occur if the animal licks its claws before scratching you.
However, rabies is only found in mammals, animals most likely to spread it include dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, goats, cows, rabbits and bats etc. Once a person has been bitten, the virus spreads through their nerves to the brain where it rapidly multiplies.
In unvaccinated people, rabies is almost always fatal after neurological symptoms have developed. Vaccination after exposure is highly successful in preventing the disease if administered promptly but not more than 6 days after infection.
There is no cure for rabies but it is preventable though vaccination.
It is important to note that rabies can lay dormant in your body for up to 3 months without any symptoms other than the initial pain, tingling, or burning at the site of the wound. Symptoms will appear once the virus travels through your central nervous system and hits your brain. As the virus spreads through your central nervous system, you’ll develop other severe symptoms.
- Inability to sleep (insomnia)
- Mental confusion
- Slight or partial paralysis
- Aggression or irritability
- Salivating more than usual
- Difficulty swallowing
There are certain situations that may put you at a higher risk of contracting rabies. These include:
- living in an area that is populated by bats
- Working in a laboratory with the rabies virus
- living in a rural area where there is greater exposure to wild animals and little or no access to vaccines
- frequent camping and exposure to wild animals
- being under the age of 15 (rabies is most common in this age group)
- Wounds to the head or neck, which may help the rabies virus travel to your brain more quickly.
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