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Rabies is a virus the lyssa virus which attacks the nervous system of the victim – Rabies is common in all the continental regions of Asia, America and Africa. Greenland and many countries in Europe have rabies in their animal populations. Scandinavia, Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are all rabies-free.
People can be infected by the bite of an animal usually a dog/fox, unusually monkeys and bats. Cats can also pass the disease on by scratching a person or other animal, so beware of the stray cats your children might want to pet. In developing countries also avoid stray dogs. Anyone with a rabies infection must be treated in a hospital.
The symptoms can appear anywhere between 2- 12 weeks and can be flu like in as much as you get muscle aches ,chills etc. The one difference will be the itching or tingling which comes from the initial bite/scratch site. A wide variety of symptoms will tthen occur including agitation, anxiety and confusion. Latterly large quantities of saliva and tears occurs with progressive inability to speak or swallow, at this point the person is terminally ill and death usually happens between 2-10 days after onset on symptoms. Occasionally people are known to have survived however they usually have severe brain damage.
Rabies is very frightening as by the time the symptoms appear, the disease can not be cured and almost always ends in death. If you have the vaccination early enough the body’s immune system should have long enough to respond before the symptoms appear.
If you have been bitten or scratched there is every chance that you can be treated before the symptoms develop, normal first aid should be given, washing the wound with lots of water and soap too if it can be tolerated. If there is any possibility that the animal is infected with Rabies the wound must be treated by a doctor.
Immediate treatment after exposure to infection is the only way to stop the fatal disease developing, by giving a specific immunoglobulin (passive immunisation) and by administration of a normal vaccination (active immunisation).
It is important before you travel you ensure you are up to date with your vaccinations, if you are going into an area where medical cover is limited.
Please Note: The information provided here should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A medical practitioner should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.
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