Definitions of Rabies:
A cute infectious disease of the central nervous system affecting almost all mammals, including humans; it is caused by a rhabdovirus and usually spread by contamination with virus-laden saliva of bites inflicted by rabid animals; important animal vectors include the dog, cat, vampire bat, mongoose. An acute viral disease of the nervous system of warm-blooded animals (usually transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal); rabies is fatal if the virus reaches the brain
Q. What exactly is rabies? What part of the body does it affect?
Ans. Rabies is a fatal viral disease which affects the central nervous system. It causes inflammation of the brain, leading to death.
Q. How is rabies spread?
Ans. It is transmitted when infected saliva enters broken skin. This means through the bite of a rabid animal, or through its lick on an existing cut or wound. The disease is not airborne and has very rarely been spread by aerosols. It can be spread by all warm-blooded animals(especially mammals), but for humans, dogs are the most important source of infection.
Q. Is it curable?
Ans. Once the symptoms are developed it is not curable. However, it can be successfully prevented by prompt post-exposure treatment.
Q. What is the duration of the disease?
Ans. The “incubation period” is roughly 10 days to 1 year. It depends on the several factors includes the site of entry of the virus into the body. Generally the closer the bite is to the brain, the quicker the progress of the disease. Once clinical signs appear the disease progresses rapidly to death, generally within 5 to 7 days.
Q. What are the signs?
Ans. First there are vague, non-specific signs such as fever, nausea or pain. Thereafter, canine rabies can take one of two forms: “furious” rabies or “dumb” rabies. In the “furious” rabies form there is great restlessness, abnormal behavior, salivation, weakness of the back legs and paralysis. The dog is hyper excitable and aggressive, biting even imaginary objects. In the “dumb” form, dogs show in coordination leading to paralysis, causes respiratory failure, leading to coma and death.
Q. Does a dog showing these signs definitely have rabies?
Ans. Not necessarily. Of course, if all the signs are present there is a strong possibility of rabies. However, certain neurological or other disorders can also show several of these symptoms. Salivation can be caused by foreign bodies or ulcers in the mouth or even by poisoning. People also tend to interpret provoked biting as rabid behaviors. Hence diagnoses should be carried out only by experts.