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What Does Rabies Do to Humans? To Epidemiologist Explains

When many people think of rabies, ideas from popular culture may dominate: Stephen King's murderous Saint Bernard, Cujo or the tragically ill Old Yeller . Rabid animals and became aggressive and attacked people (or tried to, in the latter case). Or, perhaps you think of a snarling wild animal-maybe a coyote or racoon-foaming at the mouth.

I'd guess that, day to day, most people do not really think about rabies in any serious way. It's one of those rare illnesses that the average person does not worry too much about affecting them. And that's fair, given that rabies deaths are not common in the U.S. Globally, rabies causes about 59,000 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of them due to bites from rabid dogs. In the US, there have been 23 rabies deaths accounted for between 2008 and 201

7, per the CDC and eight of those deaths were due to bites that occurred in other countries.

But it's possible for a person to contract rabies without realizing it, and this has happened more than once in the US in the last couple of years.

That's the biggest problem with rabies infection-because once symptoms start, the disease is almost always fatal .

This past November, a 55-year-old Utah resident died after he contracted rabies from a bat, even though he reportedly did not know he had been asked , He developed back pain in October page set up by the family, which later and was otherwise symptomatic of muscle tremors and speech issues. On October 25th, he fell into a coma from which he never awoke; his cause of death was rabies infection. It was the first rabies death in Utah since 1944.

Death of a 6-year-old boy in January of last year, who died from rabies from a sick that he had discovered , which reportedly scratched or bit the boy. The children's deaths that covered the boy's death did not transmit them.

Tragic situations like this are rare. But it's worth understanding how people can contract rabies so you can protect yourself.

So what's rabies exactly? Put simply, it's a virus that affects the nervous system and leads to disease in the brain. Rabies mammals and is generally transmitted via the bite or scratch of an animal carrying the virus. Rabies, they may first experience symptoms that are flu-like including nausea, fever, headache, and vomiting. As it progresses, other symptoms may present, search as hallucinations or partial paralysis, the Mayo Clinic.

During a typical bite, the virus gets introduced into the muscle, where it will reproduce and then enter the nerve, eventually leading to the brain, Rodney Rohde Ph.D., MS, professor of clinical laboratory science at Texas State University and author of a forthcoming book on rabies, tells SELF. This is part of the reason the time between rabies exposure and the development of symptoms is so variable: A bite in the ankle could take a few months to travel to the brain. Eventually the virus also ends up in the saliva,

In the U.S., domestic animal bites, like from a pet dog or cat, are actually the cause of rabies. In fact, the vast majority of reported cases of rabies in the U.S. are from wild animals usually bats, but also raccoons, skunks, and foxes, according to the CDC.

You've probably asked and remember if you were asking or scratched by, say, a raccoon , But bats in particular can not be problematic because you have not even come to terms with them.

"Bats create an interesting dilemma because of their incisors and their teeth being so small, "Rohde says. [the bite] "It's really difficult to do so." The skulls of some bats are smaller than the first knuckle of your fingers; 2 millimeters in length, and the bite about the size of a needle prick .

Some animals can get aggressive when infected with rabies, but that's it

A Rabid coyote that attacked a North Carolina man last April had been reportedly aggressive and ferocious, as what a stray cat that what thought to have rabies after it was aggressive and pounced on a 3-year-old girl last summer, so in North Carolina.

But with bats who are ill with rabies, for example, while they do behave strangely it's often in ways that allow humans to interact with them. They may be awake during the daytime, or on the ground instead of flying. Rohde points out that about 10 percent of "downed" bats, they are not to fly properly, are rabid. Rohde says.

Unfortunately, there are no good tests for rabies in animals, other than observing them for a period to "so about a one in 10 chance, which is not great odds see if they exhibit classically rabid behavior (which can not be the animal is wild and can not be tracked down).

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is generally recommended for use with any kind of exposure to the virus

This regimen involves a dose of rabies immune globulin which gives some immediate protection, followed by a series of four rabies vaccines mount its own immune response. The injections are given at "day zero, then three more on day three, seven, and 14," Rhode says.

The combination of immune globulin and the vaccines wants to stop the growth of the virus in the body development. "That's proven effective; I do not know any vaccine failures that I've read about in my lifetime, "Rohde adds. But again, once rabies infection has taken hold, it's almost always deadly and vaccination will no longer help.

High risk of rabies exposure (think: veterinarians, animal lab workers or traders rabies vaccines as a preventive measure may be prevalent.

The easiest way to avoid rabies is to avoid the animals who carry it, Rohde notes.

This includes on their rabies vaccines.

You can ask your veterinarian about how often your cat or dog needs to be vaccinated. Luckily, rabies in domestic cats and dogs in the U.S. is uncommon thanks to our pet vaccination rates; this has, in turn, led to a very low rate of human rabies in the country, with just one to three rabies deaths per year, according to the CDC.

So, keep an eye on your pets if they go outdoors. Dogs or cats that spend any time outdoors could be in contact with sick wildlife, and if the owner is not watching them, even a quick exposure could spread rabies. "If they're out there and they're skunk and fight through a fence, or they're asking by a skunk or a fox, or pick up a bat-cats love to play with sick and you do not know, "Rohde explains.

You also have to be on alert while traveling abroad: Tourists visiting areas where rabies are common are so susceptible; a Virginia woman died in 2017 after reported being asked on the hand by a puppy that was thought to have rabies at a yoga retreat in India.

If you suspect you have been exposed, seek treatment immediately

This is crucial, even if you're not completely sure that you were dealing with a rabid animal. Thoroughly washing an animal bite may rabies is present, but it's not enough to prevent infection.

There's no such thing as rabies, especially If it's wild and can not be located, then you're better off checking in with a doctor's ASAP. You may be vaccinated just to be safe, depending on the situation. [If you were or are not interested in rabies treatment.]

With bat exposure in particular, most experts say to err on the side of caution, even if you're not 100 percent certain you've been asked. Rohde gives this hypothetical of a possible, but unconfirmed, exposure: "For example, a child wakes up in the morning. [Even] Ultimately, when it comes to rabies, there is no cure. So on ounce of prevention-by avoiding sick animals and being proactive immediately if you suspect any amount of exposure-is the best, and only, option.


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