If we are bitten by a dog or other animal, we may be worried about the possibility of contracting rabies. This disease is actually fairly uncommon, but most of us will have heard about it from movies or other media. Although rare, it is a good idea to understand the symptoms of rabies because it can be very serious. Anyone who has been bitten by a wild animal should of course seek medical assistance right away, but even if it is an animal we are familiar with we should still get attention for the bite.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the central nervous system. It can be deadly and it is passed to humans in the saliva of animals who have been infected with this virus. The vast majority of animals who have rabies will be wild; in some countries wild animals account for more than 90% of infections. The most common animals to pass on rabies are wild dogs, foxes, racoons, and bats. For people to contract rabies they will usually have been bitten by one of these animals; the skin will have been broken and this means that the saliva from the animal can pass on the infection. In very rare cases it has occurred that the infection has been passed onto humans without an actual bite.
The Symptoms of Rabies in Humans
The important thing to realise with rabies in humans is that the incubation period can vary greatly. Symptoms may appear relatively quickly or it could incubate for months – or even years. Most people with rabies though, will start exhibiting symptoms within 3 to 7 weeks. The most common symptoms that will be observed include:
- Strange sensations at the part of the body where the original bite occurred
- Numbness or tingling in the body
- Increased anxiety for no apparent reason
- Drooling at the mouth
- Loss of muscle function
- A low grade fever
- People can start to have convulsions
- Difficulty swallowing and muscle spasms in the throat – this leads to the foaming at the mouth that is so often associated with rabies
- Muscle spasms
If the symptoms of rabies are allowed to develop then they will lead to death so it is vital that people seek attention before symptoms appear. There is preventative treatment available but this needs to be commenced before the symptoms begin for it to be effective. If there is any chance that you may have contracted rabies your health care professional will provide you with five vaccine shots that are usually spaced out over 28 days. There are a couple of tests that can be performed in order to determine if you have indeed contracted this disease.
The best way to deal with rabies is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Never approach an animal that is behaving strangely or acting aggressively. If you see such a suspicious animal you should get away from it and alert the authorities.