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Rabies Information
Friday, 7 February 2014

Rabies is a fatal infectious disease that is caused by a VIRUS, which primarily affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). lt can affect most warm blooded animals, including people. Birds and reptiles do not carry rabies.

Where does rabies occur? 

According to the World Health Organisation (Wl—lO), approximately half of the world’spopulation lives in areas where rabies still occurs. Around 55,000 people die of rabies eachyear, mostly in poorer parts of Africa and Asia. Rabies has been virtually eliminated fromEurope, North America, and large parts of South America.


How is rabies spread? 

Bats, monkeys, dogs and cats are amongst the most likely sources of the rabies virus. However, the domestic dog is the most common source of rabies for people. Around 7 million people per year are treated for rabies following a bite from a suspected infected dog. However, only around 15% of people who are bitten by an infected animal will go on to develop the disease.

Animals carry the rabies virus in their nervous system, and shed the virus in their saliva. The virus is spread to other animals and people primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. Rarely infection can occur if saliva from an infected animal gets into a fresh wound, or mucous membrane (ie the mouth, eye, or nose).

You CANNOT get rabies by petting or stroking an animal, having a dog bark oriump up at you, touching things an animal was sitting or lying on, or from a bite or scratch from an animal that does not have rabies.


What are the symptoms of rabies in animals?

After infection with the virus, there is an INCUBATION PERIOD before the animal starts showing signs of disease, the length of which depends on where the animal was bitten and how much virus it received. Nomwally this period is around 2-8 weeks, but can be up to 6 months in dogs. The early signs of disease include changes in behaviour — the animal may become more aggressive or more friendly than nonnal. Often the animal will lick continuously at the infected bite. After 2-3 days, animals may begin to roam, become very aggressive, and appear uncoordinated; dogs sometimes may scratch at their muzzle and make mouthing actions as if they have a stick caught between their teeth. ln the later stages animals lose their ability to swallow, and salivate excessively. The animal will quickly become very sick, and will eventually become paralyzed and die a very painful death from respiratory failure.


How can you tell if a dog or cat has rabies?

Dogs with rabies will usually show a CHANGE in behaviour, for example a normally docile dog may become aggressive, a normally aggressive dog may become unusually friendly. lf a dog that is showing signs of aggression is NORNIALLY aggressive, it probably doesn’t have rabies. Oats show similar signs. – After death, the most reliable way of telling if an animal has died of rabies involves the removal and examination of the brain in a laboratory.


Can a dog or cat with rabies be treated?

Once a dog or cat starts to develop signs of rabies, there is no treatment, and the animal will die.


Can healthy dogs and cats be protected against rabies?

Yes. Vaccines are available and are very effective in preventing rabies. Dogs and cats are normally initially vaccinated at 3-4 months of age, and require regular booster vaccinations.


What are the symptoms of rabies in people?

The speed with which symptoms develop in infected people depend on where the person was bitten, and how much virus they got. Early symptoms of rabies in people include irritability, headache, fever, and an itching at the site of exposure (normally a bite wound). A fear of water (Hydrophobia) may develop. Within a few days, the disease progresses to paralysis, spasma of the throat muscles, convulsions and seizures, delirium, and death.


Can people be treated for rabies?

Once symptoms start to develop in people, there is no effective treatment.

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