Rabies is a viral disease infecting mammals that is transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal. It is a neglected tropical disease that mainly affects the poor and vulnerable populations who live in rural locations. In order to stop the spread of rabies, we need to first educate the rural areas about this disease and ways to prevent it, therefore preventing the spread of it to urban areas as people migrate to urban areas for work purposes.
The rabies disease comes in two forms, with designated symptoms for each. The first, most common, is furious rabies where patients will experience hyperactivity, hydrophobia and excitable behaviour. Within a few days death may occur due to cardio-respiratory arrest. The second form is known as paralytic rabies and is responsible for 30% of the total number of human cases. This disease paralyzes the muscles, slowly developing a coma and eventually death.
In 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible
for the transmission of the rabies virus, although
numerous other domestic and wild animals are
carriers contributing to the spread of the rabies
virus. Cats, squirrels, rats, cattle, raccoons,
wolves, bats and foxes are examples of other
animals that spread rabies. If bitten by a dog,
there are signs and symptoms which indicate the
presence of the rabies virus. Initial symptoms of rabies include a fever with pain, unusual tingling or burning sensation at the wound site. Once the virus spreads to the central nervous system, it causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord which results in death.
Rabies has no certain cure but it is a vaccine preventable disease. The vaccine is available in two forms, pre-exposure prophylaxis for people at high risk of contracting the virus and post exposure treatment. If suspected exposure to rabies has occurred, the wound should be cleaned thoroughly and the person should seek medical attention immediately. When a person contracts rabies, there are treatments set out in order to aid the bodies fight against the virus. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the immediate treatment given to a bite victim after exposure to rabies. Effective, immediate, treatment can prevent the onset of symptoms and prevent death.
28 September is World Rabies Day. The rabies virus occurs in more than 150 countries affecting people of all ages. Fortunately, there are many organisations who deal with diseases such as rabies and attempt in creating awareness through education programs and medical programs. These programs include the education and information on responsible pet ownership, ways of preventing dog bites and types of treatment for dog bites. If bitten by a dog, showing the diagnosis of the rabies virus depends on the time taken for that person to show rabies-specific symptoms such as hydrophobia or aerophobia. Not all bites result in rabies, in most cases of this disease, there has to be a deep bite or scratch from an animal that is already infected with rabies.
In December 2015, a global framework to reach zero human rabies deaths by 2030 was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation
of United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. This marks the first time that both the human and animal health sectors have come together to adopt a common strategy against the devastating and massively neglected disease known as rabies.
For more information visit : www.cdc.gov/rabies/.