A vaccine preventable illness

Identification and Definition

Rabies is a preventable viral disease that effects the Central Nervous System ultimately leading to death. It is not naturally a human disease, but rather humans get it incidentally from wild and occasionally domesticated animals. With current U.S. preventative measures rabies has been almost completely eradicated in humans and domesticated pets but is still found in wild animals.

History of Rabies

Rabies has a long history. It was documented by Egyptians in 2300 B.C., but the first case in the U.S. was documented in 1703. Now, human rabies vaccines have been around for over 100 years, and have done a very good job of almost eliminating the disease in humans in the U.S. That begin said worldwide over 55,000 people die from rabies every year primarily in Asia and Africa so the disease still warrants some concern.

Transmission of Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic disease meaning it is transmitted from animals to humans. All mammals can get it, but bats, raccoons, dogs, skunks, foxes, and coyotes are of the most concern. The disease is transmitted via saliva and brain or nervous system tissue. It is most commonly transmitted when an infected animal bites a host and transmits the virus through its saliva. It is rarely transmitted alternate ways, but it can be speed through mucus membranes, organ transplants, corneal transplants and aerosol transmission.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

Symptoms of rabies show up in two phases, in the first phase the symptoms are similar to the flu such as

  • weakness
  • discomfort
  • headaches
  • fever

The second phase of symptoms are more severe, once these signs of rabies show up the disease is almost always fatal

  • prickling or itchy feeling at the bite site
  • cerebral dysfunction
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • delirium
  • abnormal behavior
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia


Complications of Rabies

Rabies most commonly effects children under the age of 15. The major complication of rabies is death and once people show symptoms its is almost always fatal. There are also neurological complications that may arise such as hallucinations, and delirium.

Recommended Control Measures for Rabies

Rabies in humans is 100% preventable. The most effective way to control rabies is by controlling animal sources. This can be done by:

  • vaccinting pets
  • make sure your pets are not exposed to infected wildlife
  • report strain animals to animal control
  • spay and neuter your pets to decrease the number of stray animals

If you have been bit you should seek immediate medical attention the doctor can:

  • clean out the wound
  • provide a post exposure vaccine
  • provide a passive antibody (Human rabies Immune globulin)

If you are at high risk for rabies you can get a preexposure vaccine.