Rabies (patient information)

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Rabies

Overview

What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?

Diagnosis

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Rabies?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Prevention

Rabies On the Web

Ongoing Trials at Clinical Trials.gov

Images of Rabies

Videos on Rabies

FDA on Rabies

CDC on Rabies

Rabies in the news

Blogs on Rabies

Directions to Hospitals Treating Rabies

Risk calculators and risk factors for Rabies

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Rabies is a deadly animal disease caused by a virus. It can happen in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, or in dogs, cats or farm animals. People get it from the bite of an infected animal.

What are the symptoms of Rabies?

Most patients will present after a documented, highly suspected, or likely exposure from a rabid animal. Clinical illness is compatible with acute, progressive encephalitis. After infection, the incubation period is highly variable, but it lasts approximately 1–3 months. The disease progresses acutely from a nonspecific, prodromal phase with fever and vague symptoms, to a neurologic phase, characterized by anxiety, paresis, paralysis, and other signs of encephalitis; spasms of swallowing muscles can be stimulated by the sight, sound, or perception of water (hydrophobia); and delirium and convulsions can develop, followed rapidly by coma and death. Once clinical signs manifest, most patients die in 7–14 days.

What causes Rabies?

It can happen in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, or in dogs, cats or farm animals. People get it from the bite of an infected animal.

Who is at highest risk?

Being around wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, or in dogs, cats or farm animals is a risk factor. The disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.

When to seek urgent medical care?

In case of a dog bite contact a health professional.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is straightforward in an encephalitic patient recently exposed to a rabid animal. However, in lieu of a history of a documented exposure and the potential for long incubation periods of weeks to months after initial viral transmission, clinical diagnosis may be complicated by the variety of symptoms and the differential exclusion of other etiologic agents associated with encephalitis. Definitive diagnosis can be made by demonstrating virus in neuronal tissue, corneal impressions, or nuchal biopsy, either by detecting viral antigens or amplicons. Additional detailed information on diagnostic testing may be obtained from CDC (www.cdc.gov/rabies). A specific serologic response to virus can also support the diagnosis in an encephalitic patient.

Treatment options

No treatment is effective after the development of clinical signs, but the extremely rare case of recovery after extensive medical interventions offers hope that future experimental therapeutics may be developed.In people, symptoms of rabies include fever, headache and fatigue, then confusion, hallucinations and paralysis. Once the symptoms begin, the disease is usually fatal. A series of shots can prevent rabies in people exposed to the virus. You need to get them right away. If an animal bites you, wash the wound well; then get medical care. To help prevent rabies

  • Vaccinate your pet. Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats and farm animals
  • Don't let pets roam
  • Don't approach stray animals. Animals with rabies might be aggressive and vicious, or tired and weak

Where to find medical care for Rabies?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Rabies

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

No treatment is effective after the development of clinical signs, but the extremely rare case of recovery after extensive medical interventions offers hope that future experimental therapeutics may be developed.

Possible complications

Infection in brain and spinal cord and death.

Prevention

Vaccination of pets can prevent the episodes of rabies.

Sources

Additional information can be obtained from the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/rabies/rabnet/en/), the Pan American Health Organization (http://www.paho.org/english/ad/dpc/vp/rabia.htm), the Rabies Bulletin-Europe (http://www.rbe.fli.bund.de), the World Organization for Animal Health (http://www.oie.int/eng/en_index.htm), local health authorities of the country, the embassy, or the local consulate’s office in the United States. Lists are provided only as a guide, because up to date information may not be available, surveillance standards vary, and reporting status can change suddenly as a result of disease re-introduction or emergence.

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/rabies.htm


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