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Facts About...

Rabies


What is it?

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system of humans and warm blooded animals. The rabies virus travels to the brain through nerves. Once it reaches the brain, the virus reproduces and then travels back to the parts of the body through the nerves. Eventually, the virus reaches the salivary glands where it is released into the saliva in the mouth. By this time, the disease has usually damaged the brain, producing either submissive or violent behaviour. Once symptoms appear, rabies is nearly always fatal in people and animals.

How is it spread?

The most common wild species of animals associated with rabies are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes. Domestic animals such as cats, dogs and cattle can also get rabies if exposed to an infected animal. Rabies virus is spread from one animal to another, or from an animal to a human, through close contact with infected saliva.

Rabies is spread by infected animals/saliva through:

What are the symptoms?

Rabies virus infects the central nervous system and ultimately causes death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are non-specific, consisting of fever, headache and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, or difficulty swallowing. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

How is it treated?

One of the most effective methods to decrease the chance for infection involves thoroughly washing the wound with soap and warm water and immediately seek medical attention. Rabies is fatal. Therefore, all bites and scratches from a suspect animal must be reported to the Health Department.

All people who are knowingly exposed to rabies should be treated immediately. Rabies treatment, known as post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), is available. This treatment usually consists of a series of injections given over 2 weeks. This treatment is safe and effective and is ordered by your physician from the Health Department.

How can I protect myself?

Be a responsible pet owner:

Avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals:

April 15, 2013