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Rabies: Symptoms, Causes, Vaccine and Treatment


Rabies: Symptoms, Causes, Vaccine and Treatment

Rabies is a serious disease that can be seen all over the world and can cause death if left untreated. Rabies is a common disease that affects mammals, including humans. Research has found that the cause of death of four out of ten children around the world is rabies virus. Increasing awareness of rabies and seeking medical attention in suspicious cases will reduce the mortality rate due to rabies. In particular, although the incidence of rabies has decreased since the 1970s, the rabies virus can still cause serious cases today. The incidence of rabies is still high today, especially in regions such as South Africa and Asia, where there is not enough information about the rabies virus. 95% of rabies-related deaths worldwide occur in South Africa and Asia. Rabies virus may also pose a threat to people living in developed cities. Therefore, it is important to have detailed information about the disease.

What is Rabies Disease?

Rabies is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Rabies, a viral disease, can cause death by affecting the nervous systems of mammals. Rabies virus, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, can cause symptoms within a few weeks or within a few months. This situation requires people to immediately apply to a health institution if there is a risk of contracting the rabies virus. It is a disease that can be treated with early diagnosis, but it is fatal if treatment is delayed.

Rabies virus is an RNA virus and can spread in the body in two different ways. Once taken into the body, it can enter the peripheral nervous system and move towards the brain. The peripheral nervous system, also known as the environmental nervous system, provides communication between organs, limbs and the brain. Once the rabies virus enters the peripheral nervous system, symptoms may appear more quickly. Another method of propagation is by multiplying on the safe muscle tissue of the host and then spreading. The virus, which spreads on the muscle tissue, reaches the brain through neuromuscular junctions, in other words, neuromuscular junctions, which provide nerve transmission from the muscles. The virus, which manages to enter the nervous system, causes acute inflammation in the brain. After inflammation occurs, coma and then death occur in a short time.

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Rabies disease occurs in two types. The first type, called raging or encephalitic rabies, accounts for 80% of human rabies cases. In this type of rabies, people develop symptoms such as hyperactivity or hydrophobia. In the paralytic type of rabies, also known as stupid, paralysis occurs in people.

How is Rabies Transmitted?

One of the frequently asked questions about rabies is “how is rabies transmitted?” is the question. Rabies, which is a concern among the public for transmission especially from stray animals, is usually transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected dog. 99% of rabies cases in the world occur due to bites from infected dogs. It is usually seen as a result of being bitten or scratched by stray dogs. By vaccinating dogs regularly, the risk of carrying the rabies virus can be prevented. However, unvaccinated dogs have an increased risk of transmitting rabies virus. In addition to dogs; Rabies can also be transmitted through the bite of animals such as bats, raccoons, coyotes, skunks and foxes. Although rare, rabies virus can also be found in mammalian rodents.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Rabies disease causes different symptoms depending on the stage at which the virus infects the host. The symptoms of the disease, which develops in five different stages, increase in severity as the stages progress. These stages are:

  1. Incubation period: The incubation period is a phase when no symptoms are observed. It is a process that can take between 1 week and 1 year, depending on the way the virus enters the body and the number of viral particles. It is known that the incubation period varies depending on the distance between the bite and the brain. It is important to know that the risk of death from rabies increases with the appearance of symptoms.
  2. Prodromal period: In the prodromal period, the patient experiences complaints similar to flu symptoms. In this stage, symptoms of fever above 38 degrees, headache, sore throat and cough, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, discomfort in the bitten area and anxiety are observed.
  3. Acute neurological period: This is the period when the virus begins to affect the brain structure and nerves. People begin to develop various neurological symptoms. These symptoms include; These include aggression, partial paralysis, uncontrolled muscle twitching, stiffening of the neck muscles, foaming at the mouth, difficulty breathing, convulsions, photophobia (fear of light), hallucinations, insomnia, constant nightmares and permanent erection.
  4. coma phase: After the neurological period, people fall into a coma. The coma phase usually lasts about three days, after which the patient dies. During the coma phase, the patient cannot respond to treatment.
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Fear of water is among the commonly known symptoms of rabies. The basis of this widespread idea is the hydrophobia that develops with the disease. Along with the symptoms that develop in the patient’s throat, patients experience difficulty in swallowing. The intense spasm felt during swallowing causes people to feel uncomfortable while swallowing. Water causes anxiety in people as it evokes swallowing. This situation reveals the idea that rabies patients have a fear of water.

Rabies Disease Treatment

The most important precaution to be taken to protect against rabies is to consult a health institution in case of being bitten, scratched, or licked by an open wound by a stray or suspicious animal that is not vaccinated against rabies. Accurate and early diagnosis is life-saving in the treatment of rabies.

To contract rabies, one must be bitten, scratched, or licked by an infected animal. If it is not sure whether the animal is rabid, the patient is subjected to various tests by the doctor. Various laboratory tests are applied to see antibody values. However, no change in blood values ​​may be observed during the incubation period. Rabies can also be diagnosed by performing a skin biopsy. However, this application may not yield definitive results. By the time a person is diagnosed with the rabies virus or if they begin to show symptoms, it may be too late for treatment. Therefore, it is recommended to start prophylactic treatment after a suspicious event.

When Should Rabies Vaccination Be Given?

“When should the rabies vaccine be administered to people at risk of contracting rabies?” The question arises. Rabies vaccine is a treatment that begins immediately after the bite and requires regular application. The aim of the vaccine is for the patient to develop antibodies against the rabies virus. Treatment by injecting inactivated rabies virus does not cause the person to contract rabies. With the vaccine applied to the upper arm, the person is protected against possible rabies disease by producing antibodies. If a person wants to be vaccinated to protect against the rabies virus, the vaccine is administered in 3 doses within 28 days. If there is exposure or risk of exposure to the virus, 4 doses of rabies vaccine are administered.

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The precautions people take themselves after being exposed to a suspicious situation can also be life-saving. After the bite, it is recommended to wash the area within 15 minutes with soapy water or povidone iodine, an antiseptic used for skin disinfection. After washing, the nearest health institution should be consulted. Following the bite of an animal that is certain to be rabid, Rabies Immunoglobulin (RIG) is applied to the wound. In this way, infection in the wound can be prevented.

The response rate to treatment is low in people who begin to show symptoms of rabies. In such cases, doctors provide treatment to relieve the patient’s symptoms and make the patient comfortable. During the prodromal period, patients may need a ventilator.


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