What is rabies?

Rabies is an infectious viral disease transmitted to humans from animals. Rabies is transmitted to humans from the bite of an animal that is rabid, meaning that the animal is carrying the rabies infection. Raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes tend to be the primary sources of animal-to-human transmission.

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Rabies affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Although initial symptoms may resemble the flu, such as fever, chills or headache, the infection can progress quickly to agitation, hallucinations, paralysis, and eventually if untreated—death. Once the clinical symptoms of rabies develop, the infection is almost always fatal.

Advances in post-exposure rabies vaccines have drastically reduced the annual number of deaths from rabies over the last century, from more than 100 in the early 1900s, to one or two in the 1990s (Source: CDC).

Rabies is a very serious, life-threatening condition that can progress quickly. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you are bitten by an animal and, particularly, if you begin to develop any of the symptoms of rabies, including agitation, anxiety, confusion, convulsions, difficulty swallowing, drooling, headache, itching or irritation around the bite region, low fever (lower than 102 degrees Fahrenheit), muscle spasms, numbness or tingling, or restlessness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of rabies?

The early stages of a rabies infection may feel like the flu, with symptoms of fatigue, fever and chills. However, if the infection progresses without treatment, more advanced symptoms will occur, which include muscle spasms, drooling, anxiety, agitation, numbness and low-grade fever.... Read more about rabiessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes rabies?

Rabies is a virus transmitted by saliva from a host to the uninfected animal. You can get rabies through bites from animals that are infected with it. Airborne transmission, viral exposure through mucous membranes, and contamination through corneal and organ transplantations have occurred, but only rarely.... Read more about rabiescauses

TREATMENTS

How is rabies treated?

Following rabies exposure, prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential because the infection can advance quickly and become fatal if untreated. It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommended treatment plan, which may include wound care for the bite and post-exposure vaccinations.... Read more about rabiestreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases


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