Rabies is a viral infection that is usually spread by the bite or scratch of an infected animal. It is an RNA virus of the rhabdovirus family.
However, a person who may have been exposed to rabies can usually be treated effectively if they seek help at once. By the time the symptoms appear, it is generally too late to save the patient. Without early treatment, it is usually fatal.
Around the world tens of thousands of deaths result from rabies each year, out of which over 95 percent of infections are caused by dogs.
The virus can affect the body in one of two ways:
- The virus enters the peripheral nervous system (PNS) directly and moves to the brain.
- It duplicates within the muscle tissue because the host’s immune system cannot reach it there. After this it enters the human nervous system through the neuromuscular joints and produces acute inflammation of the brain. This is followed by Coma and death.
There are two types of rabies.
- Furious, or encephalitic rabies: 80 percent of human cases have this type of Rabies. The person is more likely to experience hyperactivity and hydrophobia.
- Paralytic or “dumb” rabies: Here the person experiences paralysis mostly.
Any mammal can harbour and transmit the virus, but smaller mammals, such as rodents, rarely become infected or transmit rabies. Rabbits too are unlikely to spread the virus.
Countries which have stray dogs in large numbers have a higher chance of getting infected with rabies. In the U.S Bats are the most common carrier of Rabies.
The virus is passed through saliva and as such can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal or if the saliva reaches an open wound, the eyes or the mouth.
However. It cannot pass through unbroken skin.