Rabies is a dangerous virus that can be deadly to both humans and animals. The rabies virus is most commonly found in the saliva of infected animals. In most cases, the virus is transmitted to humans through a bite from an animal which is already infected by the virus. Although rare, it is possible for rabies to be transmitted when infected saliva enters through broken skin. This could occur if an infected animal were to lick an open wound.
In North America, wild animals such as foxes, bats, coyotes, racoons and skunks are most likely to transmit the rabies virus to humans. Pets and farm animals such as dogs, cats and horses may also transmit the virus.
The symptoms of rabies vary from person to person. However, the first symptoms of rabies may resemble that of a common flu virus. These symptoms generally last for a few days. As the infection progresses, symptoms may include fever, vomiting, anxiety and headache. More serious symptoms such as confusion, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation and paralysis may develop at the later stages of infection. One thing to keep in mind is that once a person begins to show signs and symptoms of the infection, the risk of death is significantly higher. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you have been bitten by any animal, especially if the animal is suspected to have rabies.
After taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination, your doctor will be able to decide if treatment is necessary. The bad news is that once a rabies infection has established itself in the body, the disease is usually fatal. As a result, if your doctor thinks that you have been exposed to a virus, you will be administered a series of injections to prevent the virus from infecting you. The first shot will be a fast-acting medication that will prevent the infection from taking hold in your body. Next you will be giving four shots over the next two weeks which contain a vaccine to help your body fight the rabies infection.
If at all possible, it is a good idea to test the animal that bit you to determine if it is infected with rabies. This will help avoid unnecessary treatment. However, in the case of wild animals this may not be possible.
There are a few simple things you can do to minimize your risk coming in contact with the rabies virus. First of all, household pets such as dogs and cats may be vaccinated. To add to this, keeping a close eye on your pets when they are outdoors will reduce the chances of contact with wild animals that may be infected. Finally avoid physical contact with wild animals and report any stray animals to local authorities.
It may also be wise to consider getting a rabies vaccine if you are travelling to other parts of the world where rabies is more prevalent. If in doubt, ask your doctor for advice.
As you can see, although rare, rabies can lead to a serious or even fatal medical condition. Please keep in mind these simple prevention tips and you will greatly reduce your risk.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr Christopher H. Singh Chiropractor, runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024 E.mail: chris_s[email protected]patico.ca