Rabies is a deadly virus transmitted mainly through bites from infected animals to humans via saliva drops (1). People bitten by such animals will go through several stages (2).
The virus usually travels slowly in the prodromal stage and the incubation period lasts approximately 4 to 6 weeks with a few exceptions. The virus then spreads through salivary system and causes abnormal features on bitten ones which usually lasts for days – restlessness, anxiety, and slow response to any external stimuli. They may also show more aggressive and disordered behavior. In the last phase, the bitten ones start to breathe harder and sweat more, with possible seizure and coma coming afterwards.
The virus travels to the brain eventually and causes symptoms such as drooling (unintentional spillage of saliva outside the mouth), convulsions (a sudden, intense, irregular movement of a limb or of the body), swelling, and even death. Very rare cases show that being bitten by an infected animal will not be infected (3).
Animals like dogs, bats, skunks, raccoons, and a few more are most likely to transmit such virus (4). In our daily life, bites from dogs (either domestic or stray) are a common cause of rabies, while people who work in the wilderness bear higher risk of exposure to bats and raccoons with rabies.
There are available and effective vaccines that are able to protect people. Vaccination for certain animals are mandatory while others are not vaccine protected like wildlife which increases the risk of getting infected.
If bitten by an animal in daily life, immediate injection of vaccines is highly recommended as well as calling for local animal control. If people are unable to contact the local authorities in the first place, they are advised to clean the bite as soon as possible with water. Ask for help from the rangers if in the wilderness and they would be able to provide in-time medical assistance.
This article contributed by HHP Staff Writer, Xiaoye Jin.
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