Rabies is uncommon in the US, but globally its impact is still felt. In 2010, an estimated 26,000 people died from rabies, down from 54,000 in 1990. Most of these deaths were in India and Africa.
Rabies is a serious illness. By the time the symptoms of rabies have become apparent, it is generally too late to save the patient.
Rabies is a virulent killer that can spread using any mammal species as a host.1
- What is rabies?
- Symptoms of rabies
- Causes of rabies
- Tests and diagnosis of rabies
- Rabies progression
- Treatment for rabies
- Prevention of rabies (for individuals)
- Prevention of rabies (countrywide)
- Global prevalence of rabies
Fast facts on rabies
Here are some key points about rabies. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Rabies is nearly always transmitted by an infected animal bite.
- Rabies is a viral disease.
- For rabies treatment to be successful, it must be given before any symptoms appear.
- Rabbits very rarely carry rabies.
- If bitten, medical help should be sought immediately.
- A fear of light and water are among rabies' symptoms.
- India is the country most affected by rabies.
- People can help prevent rabies by getting your pet vaccinated.
- Puppy pregnancy syndrome has increased the rabies death toll in India.
What is rabies?
The majority of human rabies cases are the result of a bite from a dog infected with the virus.
Rabies is a viral infection spread via saliva. If someone presents with rabies symptoms, it is almost always fatal. In countries where stray dogs are present in large numbers, they are the biggest rabies threat.
Predominantly, in the US, rabies is spread by raccoons, coyotes, bats, skunks and foxes.2 Bats carrying rabies have been found in all 48 contiguous states.
Dr. Joseph Lennox Pawan first discovered animal-to-human transmission of rabies in the vampire bat in Trinidad in 1932.3
It is now known that any mammal can harbor and transmit the virus. However, smaller mammals such as rodents very rarely become infected or transmit rabies.
Symptoms of rabies
The symptoms of rabies can present themselves just a few days after a bite, or they might take as long as 12 weeks. Some rare cases report a number of years between the bite and the onset of symptoms.
The closer the bite is to your brain, the quicker the effects are likely to appear.4
If you are bitten by a wild animal, it is essential that you seek medical advice as soon as possible.
When the initial symptoms of rabies occur, they can be similar to flu and last 2-12 days, becoming progressively stronger.
From the early flu-like symptoms, the condition worsens and symptoms can include the following:
- Excess salivation
- Fear of water (hydrophobia) due to difficulty in swallowing
- Priapism (permanent erection)
- Partial paralysis.
On the next page, we look at the causes, diagnosis, progression and treatment of rabies.