Rabies is a disease caused by the virus of the same name. This virus can spread between species and is most commonly spread from dogs to humans (97% of human rabies cases) when the animal bites. Other animals such as bats, opossums, skunks, wolves, foxes and monkeys, can also carry the disease. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and eventually travels to the brain via the peripheral nerves. Once the virus reaches the brain the disease is almost always fatal within days. Early symptoms of the disease begin between 2-12 weeks and may include: headache, fever and fatigue. Soon after the symptoms progress to include strong pain, uncontrolled movements, anxiety, partial paralysis, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, depression and fear of water. Death usually occurs when the patient is not able to maintain the necessary rate of breathing. Rabies causes 55,000 human deaths per year. Let’s find out how rabies is treated.
How is rabies treated?
Fortunately, treatment within 10 days after exposure to the virus is usually successful. The first step to preventing the disease is to thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water for at least 5 minutes. Treatment with antiseptic is also recommended when available. The next stage is to treat the patient with human rabies immunoglobulin along with 4 doses of the rabies vaccine within 14 days. The first dose of the vaccine is given as soon as possible and the others are given at 3 days, 7 days and 14 days.
If a patient has not received immediate treatment for the disease the chances of survival are slim. However, a new method called the Milwaukee protocol has had some success. The basic idea of this treatment is to place the patient in a chemically induced coma and provide antiviral drugs.
Did you know?
The vaccine is not given to humans as a preventative measure, but it should be used as a prevention in animals. All domesticated pets should be vaccinated in areas where rabies is present. A vaccine distributed in a bait for wild animals is also available and is used to prevent rabies outbreaks in the wild.