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What is Rabies

What is Rabies

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Published by: collinfrancis on Feb 13, 2009
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01/28/2013

What is rabies? Rabies is an illness that affects the central nervous system.

It is transmitted to people from infected mammals. Rabies can be prevented by avoiding exposure to infected animals. Rabies is preventable through a series of vaccinations after exposure, but it is fatal once symptoms appear. What is the infectious agent that causes rabies? Rabies is caused by the rabies virus. Where is rabies found? Rabies is found in all U.S. states except Hawaii. It is also found in Canada, Mexico, and many other countries around the world. The rabies virus is passed in the saliva of infected mammals. How do people get rabies? People get rabies from infected mammals. Rabies is transmitted most often through animal bites, although other contact with the saliva or brain tissue of an infected animal can cause the disease. Evidence suggests that rabies can also be spread by a seemingly insignificant bite from a bat with rabies, even without an obvious wound. What are the signs and symptoms of rabies? The rabies virus travels through the nervous system, eventually inflaming the brain. Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever, and sometimes itching or pain at the site of the bite. The disease eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, and delirium. Without preventive treatment, it is fatal. How soon after exposure do symptoms appear? The time between exposure and symptoms is usually 2 to 12 weeks, but it can be much less or much longer. Who is at risk for rabies? All mammals, including humans, can get rabies. What is the treatment for rabies? A series of vaccinations after exposure can prevent the disease. Once symptoms appear, there is no treatment. How common is rabies? In the United States, rabies in humans is rare because most pets are vaccinated against the disease. Only 36 cases have been reported since 1980, 21 of them linked to bats. Each year, about 40,000 people receive treatment for bites from potentially infected animals to prevent rabies. Is rabies an emerging infectious disease? Yes. Largely eliminated from dogs by vaccination programs, the virus has reemerged as a widespread problem among wild mammals, particularly raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and bats. There has also been a slight but significant rise in the annual number of cases in humans. From 1981 to 1993, the number of rabies cases ranged from 0 to 3. There were 6 cases in 1994 and 4 each in 1995, 1996, and 1997. Despite an outbreak of rabies in raccoons on the East Coast, there have been no reports of humans becoming infected by raccoons. Most of the new cases in humans involve bats. How can rabies be prevented?

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Make sure dogs, cats, and ferrets are vaccinated against rabies. Keep the vaccinations up to date. Obey leash laws, and keep your pets supervised on your property to reduce the chance of exposure to rabies. When traveling or visiting wilderness areas, avoid any direct contact with wild animals, especially bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. Enjoy wild animals from a distance, even if they seem friendly. If you see an animal acting strangely, notify local health or animal control authorities. Do not try to catch the animal yourself. Stay away from wildlife. If any contact occurs or is suspected, get medical advice as soon as possible. Some animal bites are small, and people can be bitten without realizing it (such as when they are asleep). If your pet is attacked or bitten by another animal, report the attack to local health or animal control authorities. Be sure your vaccinated pet gets a booster vaccination. If a person gets bitten, don't panic. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Get medical help immediately. The person might need preventive treatment. Rabies rarely occurs in humans if preventive treatment is started immediately. Alert animal control authorities so they can try to capture the animal. Certain high-risk persons can be vaccinated against rabies. People who should consider being vaccinated include: veterinarians, persons who work with wildlife, laboratory staff who work with the rabies virus, and long-term travelers to areas where rabies is common.

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