Rabies symptoms in humans

Rabies causes and treatmentRabies is a very dangerous infectious disease caused by a virus. Transmission usually occurs by biting an infected animal. In Europe, rabies pathogens have  found in wild carnivores (foxes, badgers or martens) that could infect roes and domestic animals (cattle, sheep, goats, horses, dogs and cats). In most animal infections fox and bats are the main cause of virus transmission.

Due to consistent control measures, particularly vaccination of baits and vaccines of domestic animals, rabies has been largely eliminated in animals. In Spain and other European countries, except for Eastern Europe, no infected animals have been detected in the peninsula since 1978, except in Ceuta or Melilla where recent cases have occurred. A source of difficult control, not only in Europe, but in the US, are bats. In these animals the disease is not eradicated.

For this reason, the risk of contagion for European residents is low. The risk exists mainly when traveling to countries with rabies or coming into contact with infected animals from those regions. However, at any time a new introduction of rabies in Spain is possible, for example, by the illegal introduction of unvaccinated domestic animals from regions with rabies. In 1975 cases of rabies were detected in Africa and the source of the transmission was identified in an infected dog in Morocco.

The typical signs of a rabies infection are intense bite pain, hydrophobia, swallowing discomfort, salivation, fear, and mood swings. Due to increasing paralysis, all cases of illness end in death after the onset of the first symptoms. With the application of measures after the bite, such as passive immunization, the onset of rabies can be avoided in most cases. For persons at risk by reason of their profession (such as those in direct contact with bats or laboratory personnel who may come into contact with the rabies virus) and for those traveling to endemic areas, preventive vaccination is recommended against rabies.

Rabies is an infectious disease caused by certain viruses. It is a zoonosis (a disease transmitted by animals to humans). Its transmission mainly occurs by the bite of a sick animal. If there is suspicion of contact with a rabid animal or suspected of having rabies, it should be reported immediately to the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, as it is a notifiable disease. Such fact should be reported immediately to the Ministry of Health.


Rabies Causes

The cause of rabies is infection with a particular virus. This virus belongs to the group of RNA viruses, in cylindrical form, the so-called rhabdovirus. This rabies is mainly found in wild animals (foxes, badgers, martens and roe deer) and in domestic animals (cattle, sheep, goats, horses, dogs and cats). However, in Europe and the USA the most difficult to control infected animals are bats.

At the time when rabies in wild and domestic animals was not yet extinct in Europe as it is today thanks to long-term control measures (especially vaccine baits), most animals were infected by fox bites; The most frequent cause of contagion in people was the bite of a dog or an infected cat. Animals and people can become infected in the following ways through saliva infected by viruses, when saliva enters the body through the injured skin.

how rabies transmit

Incubation period

Incubation period is the time between infection and outbreak of the disease which anges from an average of three to eight weeks, in extreme cases also to less than nine days, and even one or more years.

The duration of the incubation period depends to a large extent on the amount of virus transmitted and how far away the bite from the brain is. In head injuries, the incubation period is shorter than in wounds in the arms and legs.


Rabies symptoms

In people, rabies has three stages characterized by different symptoms. These are the following:

Prodromic phase of rabies:

  • Few characteristic discomforts such as headache and lack of appetite
  • Fever is often manifested
  • Burning, itching and increasing paresthesia (abnormal sensitivity of the senses) in the area of ​​the bite

Acute neurological phase of rabies:

  • Feeling of fear, uneasiness
  • Spasms in the pharyngeal musculature and tongue during swallowing
  • Fear of drinking from spasms
  • Alternate mood swings between aggressive and depressive
  • Hydrophobia, the acoustic and visual perception of the water causes restlessness and spasms which can spread to the entire musculature

Last phase of rabies:

  • Decreased spasms and restlessness
  • Progressive paralysis
  • Death

Without treatment, rabies causes death in all cases (it is 100% lethal). If the affected patients do not receive intensive medical care, a maximum of seven days elapse between the appearance of the first symptoms and the outcome of death. So far, only one case in the United States is known. In which a 15-year-old girl showed signs of rabies and survived, even though she was not vaccinated. The reasons for surviving are unclear.


How To Diagnose Rabies

The diagnosis of rabies occurs through direct microscopic observation of the responsible virus, either in saliva, cerebrospinal fluid or the patient’s hair follicles. It is recommended to observe and examine the transmitting animals by a veterinarian. Antigens can often be observed in the saliva of the still living animal. But in any case, a guaranteed diagnosis is only obtained with the dead animal.

However, diagnostic certainty is not mandatory for a treatment in cases of suspected pathology. Before the bite or contact with the saliva of a wild or domestic animal with rabies or suspected that it is very important an immediate treatment. In these chaos you have to wait for the examination of the pathogen. If it is subsequently determined that the suspicion was wrong, treatment can be discontinued.


How is Rabies Treated?

If rabies is suspected, treatment should be carried out as soon as possible, otherwise the disease always causes death.

Any injury that has caused an infected animal or has come in contact with its saliva or the liquid of a bait-vaccine for the control of rabies should be washed directly with a soap solution or abundant water to remove the pathogen of rabies and disinfect it with alcohol or iodine.

Treatment of rabies

If there is a suspicion of rabies infection, you should immediately go to a hospital for intensive medical care. There you will receive post-exposure prophylaxis after washing the infected area. This means that doctors will vaccinate you according to a protocol with an inactivated vaccine and, depending on the type of contact with the animal. In addition, a tetanus vaccine is also recommended as a preventive measure.

How To Prevent Rabies?

Rabies infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with any possible transmitter of the pathogen. At the beginning of the disease, wild animals often lose their usual shyness towards people. If animals that are usually shy, show this type of behavior, should maintain a safe distance. To protect against transmission, you only have to catch bats with leather gloves.

In addition, the rabies vaccine can prevent infection. In Europe, the risk of a wild or domestic animal transmitting the infection by classical rabies is very low. Therefore, a vaccine only makes sense:

  • In case of increased risk due to the profession: Should be vaccinated against rabies, if
  • You have contact with animals by profession (for example, if you are veterinarian, animal keeper, forest ranger or hunter),
  • For professional reasons or other reasons, has direct contact with bats,
  • Works in a laboratory with rabies virus.

Before traveling to regions with a high risk of rabies: An anti-rabies vaccine is recommended if during the trip increases the risk of contact with rabies virus (for example, for stray dogs on trekking tours).

You will receive the vaccination in several doses within a few weeks. The first memory vaccine should be received one year later, every two to five years thereafter. The protection of rabies lasts up to five years.

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