Road Today - - Guest Column: Health -

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

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