a Public Health Announcement

The lyssavirus, more commonly known as the rabies virus, causes the disease known as rabies.

The rabies virus is an RNA virus. Its genome has five proteins: nucleoproteins, phosphoproteins, matrix proteins, glycoproteins, and polymerase. They have a helical ribonucleoprotein core (RNP) and a surrounding envelope. The RNA is encased by the nucleoprotein.

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When the virus enter the body through an animal bite, it travels through the nerves to the brain. Rabies attacks the brain and the spinal cord, which make up the central nervous system. Once the virus is in the body, it is carried by the afferent nerves of the peripheral system to the spinal cord, where it is then carried up to the brain. During this time, the virus shows no symptoms. This period is known as the incubation period. Once it is at the brain, the virus multiplies rapidly and travels through the efferent nerves to the salivary glands, which causes excess saliva to form. Symptoms of the disease are now present.

Rabies is spread through saliva. The most common way it is spread is through the bite of an infected animal to another animal, causing the infected saliva to enter the body.

The first symptoms of rabies include discomfort, fever, or headaches. Within days, the symptoms increase to anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As time passes by, delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia may become present. Some more symptoms are:

  • paralysis
  • loss of appetite
  • strange behaviors
  • excessive drooling
  • sporadic changes in mood or behavior
  • restlessness or aggressiveness
  • obviously disoriented
  • a change in voice

Once a person is bitten by an animal with rabies, actions need to be taken immediately. The treatment to this disease is a series of injections. The first is a rabies immune globulin that will help to prevent the virus from infecting the individual. Then, four injections are given over the next two weeks. These are rabies vaccines that help the body fight the virus.

The rabies vaccine is available for preventive measures and for people who have been exposed to the virus. The steps needed for a person who has been exposed to the virus are listed about. For preventive purposes, the rabies vaccine is administered in 3 doses. The second dose is given 7 days after the first dose, and the third dose is given 21 or 28 days after the first dose.

The best preventive measures that can be taken are to vaccinate yourself, vaccinate your pets and keep them away from wild animals, not to approach wild animals, and to be wary of stray animals.

This disease only affects mammals. It is most common in dogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. It can also be passed along to humans.

This disease can be cured if actions are taken immediately and the necessary injections are administered. Once the symptoms begin, the disease is nearly inevitably fatal.