Understanding Rabies Infection and Prevention

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Rabies is one the most dangerous diseases known to man. Common in the tropics, rabies is a viral infection that can be transmitted through animal saliva, especially those coming from dog bites. Hundreds are killed from rabies every year, especially in regions where medical infrastructure is not very good.

Rabies is a disease that causes brain inflammation or encephalitis in humans. Generally, bites from infected animals, such as dogs, and occasionally cats and monkeys, spread rabies to humans. The incubation period, which is the time from where a person is bitten to the development of signs and symptoms, take about 20-90 days.

The rabies virus enters the peripheral nervous system, which gradually makes its way into the brain. At the onset of the illness, a patient may initially feel general body pain and weakness, fatigue, and headache. There are two forms of the disease. One, which is more common, is the rabid, furious form. A patient eventually becomes “mad”, turning overexcited, hallucinating, agitated, and has difficulty in swallowing. There is a fear of water (hydrophobia), and intense seizures might result from taking in water. A patient gradually develops a coma. In the second, less common form, a patient becomes paralytic. He becomes confused and develops a coma. This is present in the remaining 20 percent of patients.

In either case, rabies is always fatal. Death results from dehydration and complications like cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. At the onset of rabies symptoms, not much can be done to help the patient. Hence, rabies is a feared illness, due to its grotesque effects on a sufferer.

It is, therefore, essential to prevent rabies, as prevention is much more effective than cure. In preventing rabies, it is important to stay away from unfamiliar dogs. One must handle animals with care – not holding them at the neck, ears, and tail, causing them to get startled and bite as defense. Children must be trained to handle animals with care and adults must supervise their children at play with animals.

In the event one is bitten by a dog, the wound must be immediately washed with soap and water. Also, he should proceed right away to the nearest hospital in order for a doctor to prescribe treatment. In under no circumstance must self-medication be attempted. The animal must be captured and observed, as well.

Rabies is a highly preventable disease. Hence, utmost care must be taken and measures be done to ensure a healthy, and rabies-free life.

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