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What You Need To Know About Rabies

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Rabies is a virus that is usually spread by the bite or scratch of an animal. By the time the symptoms appear, it is generally too late to save the patient.

However, a person who may have been exposed to rabies can usually be treated effectively if they seek help at once.

In the Ashanti Region, about four people have reportedly died of rabies.

See Also: Rabies Has Killed Four People In The Ashanti Region This Year

Transmission

It is passed on through saliva. Rabies can develop if a person receives a bite from an infected animal, or if saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound or through a mucous membrane, such as the eyes or mouth. It cannot pass through unbroken skin.

Any mammal can harbour and transmit the virus, but smaller mammals, such as rodents, rarely become infected or transmit rabies. Rabbits are unlikely to spread rabies.

Symptoms

Rabies progresses in five distinct stages:

Incubation period

This is the time before symptoms appear. It usually lasts from 3 to 12 weeks, but it can take as little as 5 days or more than 2 years.

The closer the bite is to the brain, the sooner the effects are likely to appear.

By the time symptoms appear, rabies is usually fatal. Anyone who may have been exposed to the virus should seek medical help at once, without waiting for symptoms.

Prodrome

During the prodrome stage of rabies, a person may experience coughing and fever.

During the prodrome stage of rabies, a person may experience coughing and fever.

Early, flu-like symptoms, include:

a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or above

headache

anxiety

feeling generally unwell

sore throat and a cough

nausea and vomiting

discomfort may occur at the site of the bite

These can last from 2 to 10 days, and they worsen over time.

Acute neurologic period

Neurologic symptoms develop, including:

confusion and aggression

partial paralysis, involuntary muscle twitching, and rigid neck muscles

convulsions

hyperventilation and difficulty breathing

hypersalivation or producing a lot of saliva, and possibly frothing at the mouth

fear of water, or hydrophobia, due to difficulty swallowing

hallucinations, nightmares, and insomnia

priapism, or permanent erection, in males

photophobia, or a fear of light

Toward the end of this phase, breathing becomes rapid and inconsistent.

Coma and death

If the person enters a coma, death will occur within a matter of hours, unless they are attached to a ventilator.

Rarely, a person may recover at this late stage.

Treatment

If a person is bitten or scratched by an animal that may have rabies, or if the animal licks an open wound, the individual should immediately wash any bites and scratches for 15 minutes with soapy water, povidone-iodine, or detergent. This might minimize the number of viral particles.

Then they must seek medical help at once.

After exposure and before symptoms begin, a series of shots can prevent the virus from thriving. This is usually effective.

Strategies include:

A fast-acting dose of rabies immune globulin: Delivered as soon as possible, close to the bite wound, this can prevent the virus from infecting the individual.

A series of rabies vaccines: These will be injected into the arm over the next 2 to 4 weeks. These will train the body to fight the virus whenever it finds it.

It is not usually possible to find out whether the animal has rabies or not. It is safest to assume the worst and begin the course of shots.

A small number of people have survived rabies, but most cases are fatal once the symptoms develop. There is no effective treatment at this stage.

A person with symptoms should be made as comfortable as possible. They may need breathing assistance.

Prevention

In some areas, the vaccination of humans is necessary to prevent the spread of rabies.

Rabies is a serious disease, but individuals and governments can and do take action to control and prevent, and, in some cases, wipe it out completely.

Strategies include:

regular antirabies vaccinations for all pets and domestic animals

bans or restrictions on the import of animals from some countries

widespread vaccinations of humans in some areas

educational information and awareness

In rural Canada and the U.S., agencies have dropped baits containing an oral vaccine to reduce the number of wild raccoons with rabies.

Individual precautions

Individuals should follow some safety rules to reduce the chance of contracting rabies.

Vaccinate pets: Find out how often you need to vaccinate your cat, dog, ferret, and other domestic or farm animals, and keep up the vaccinations.

Protect small pets: Some pets cannot be vaccinated, so they should be kept in a cage or inside the house to prevent contact with wild predators.

Keep pets confined: Pets should be safely confined when at home, and supervised when outside.

Report strays to the local authorities: Contact local animal control officials or police departments if you see animals roaming

Do not approach wild animals: Animals with rabies are likely to be less cautious than usual, and they may be more likely to approach people.

Keep bats out of the home: Seal your home to prevent bats from nesting. Call an expert to remove any bats that are already present.

People are encouraged to seek medical help after an encounter with a wild animal, even if they do not have bite marks or other outward signs of injury.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls rabies a “100-percent vaccine-preventable disease.” They note that at least 70 percent of dogs in an area must be vaccinated to break the cycle of transmission.

Source: Medical News Today

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