So we’ve discussed scary mythological creatures and fantastical beasts of legend but now In this instalment we shall discuss something truly scary,because it is a REAL threat.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months; however, this time period can vary from less than one week to more than one year. The time is dependent on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system.
Rabies is spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. Saliva from an infected animal can also transmit rabies if the saliva comes into contact with the eyes, mouth, or nose. Globally, dogs are the most common animal involved. More than 99% of rabies cases in countries where dogs commonly have the disease are caused by dog bites. In the Americas,bat bites are the most common source of rabies infections in humans, and less than 5% of cases are from dogs. Rodents are very rarely infected with rabies.The rabies virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves. The disease can only be diagnosed after the start of symptoms.
Immunizing people before they are exposed is recommended for those who are at high risk. The high-risk group includes people who work with bats or who spend prolonged periods in areas of the world where rabies is common. In people who have been exposed to rabies, the rabies vaccine and sometimes rabies immunoglobulin are effective in preventing the disease if the person receives the treatment before the start of rabies symptoms. Washing bites and scratches for 15 minutes with soap and water, povidone iodine , or detergent may reduce the number of viral particles and may be somewhat effective at preventing transmission. Only six people have survived a rabies infection after showing symptoms, and this was with extensive treatment known as the Milwaukee Protocol.
Rabies caused about 17,400 deaths worldwide in 2015. More than 95% of human deaths caused by rabies occur in Africa and Asia. About 40% of deaths occur in children under the age of 15. Rabies is present in more than 150 countries and on all continents but Antarctica. More than 3 billion people live in regions of the world where rabies occurs. A number of countries, including Australia and Japan, as well as much of Western Europe, do not have rabies among dogs. Many small island nations do not have rabies at all.
In humans Incubation periods as short as four days and longer than six years have been documented, depending on the location and severity of the contaminated wound and the amount of virus introduced. Initial signs and symptoms of rabies are often nonspecific such as fever and headache. As rabies progresses and causes inflammation of the brain and/or Meninges, signs and symptoms can include slight or partial paralysis,anxiety,insomnia, confusion, agitation,abnormal behavior, paranoia, terror, and hallucinations progressing to delirium and coma. The person may also have hydrophobia. Death usually occurs 2 to 10 days after first symptoms.
Hydrophobia (“fear of water”) is the historic name for rabies. It refers to a set of symptoms in the later stages of an infection in which the person has difficulty swallowing, shows panic when presented with liquids to drink, and cannot quench his or her thirst. Any mammal infected with the virus may demonstrate hydrophobia.
Saliva production is greatly increased, and attempts to drink, or even the intention or suggestion of drinking, may cause excruciatingly painful spasms of the muscles in the throat and larynx. This can be attributed to the fact that the virus multiplies and assimilates in the salivary glands of the infected animal for the purpose of further transmission through biting. The ability to transmit the virus would decrease significantly if the infected individual could swallow saliva and water.
Hydrophobia is commonly associated with furious rabies, which affects 80% of rabies-infected people. The remaining 20% may experience a paralytic form of rabies that is marked by muscle weakness, loss of sensation, and paralysis; this form of rabies does not usually cause fear of water.
The following can help reduce the risk of contracting rabies:
Vaccinating dogs, cats, and ferrets against rabies
Keeping pets under supervision
Not handling wild animals or strays
Contacting an animal control officer upon observing a wild animal or a stray, especially if the animal is acting strangely
If bitten by an animal, washing the wound with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes and contacting a healthcare provider to determine if post-exposure prophylaxis is required
India has the highest rate of human rabies in the world, primarily because of stray dogs,whose number has greatly increased since a 2001 law forbade the killing of dogs. Effective control and treatment of rabies in India is also hindered by a form of mass hysteria known as puppy pregnancy syndrome (PPS). Dog bite victims with PPS (both male and female) become convinced that puppies are growing inside them, and often seek help from faith healers rather than from conventional medical services. An estimated 20,000 people die every year from rabies in India — more than a third of the global toll.
The rabies virus survives in widespread, varied, rural animal reservoirs. Despite Australia’s official rabies-free status,Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV), discovered in 1996, is a strain of rabies prevalent in native bat populations. There have been three human cases of ABLV in Australia, all of them fatal.
Rabies was considered a scourge for its prevalence in the 19th century. In France and Belgium, where Saint Hubert was venerated, the “St. Hubert’s Key” was heated and applied to cauterize the wound. By an application of magical thinking, dogs were branded with the key in hopes of protecting them from rabies. The fear of rabies was almost irrational, due to the number of vectors (mostly rabid dogs) and the absence of any efficacious treatment. It was not uncommon for a person bitten by a dog but merely suspected of being rabid to commit suicide or to be killed by others. This gave Louis Pasteur ample opportunity to test postexposure treatments from 1885. In ancient times, the attachment of the tongue (the lingual frenulum , a mucous membrane) was cut and removed as this was where rabies was thought to originate. This practice ceased with the discovery of the actual cause of rabies.
In modern times, the fear of rabies has not diminished, and the disease and its symptoms, particularly agitation has served as an inspiration for several works of zombie or similarly-themed fiction, often portraying rabies as having mutated into a stronger virus which fills humans with murderous rage or uncurable illness, bringing about a devastating, widespread pandemic.
One of those famous works of fiction inspired by rabies is the iconic CUJO!!! by Stephen King,about a friendly st.bernard bitten by a bat,who contracts rabies and goes on a rampage one fine summer. The following link has a bunch of cool facts regarding the film adaptation of Kings novel:
Rabies is such a big deal that they even have a world rabies day to help spread education about Rabies. So if your birthday is September 28th,lucky you ,you share a day with Rabies!!!