Rabies is one of the oldest diseases known to man. Once a person has contracted the symptoms of this virus, there is no known treatment available. It is a major concern worldwide and kills 55,000 people every year. Just in the United States, one to two people will die annually while more than 6,000 cases of animal rabies will be reported. World Rabies Day was launched in 2007 and aims to raise awareness regarding the public health impact of human and animal rabies.
What is Rabies?It is a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. It is caused by a virus and there are two different types:
Frantic rabies is the most common type in humans.
TransmissionWhen a rabid animal bites or scratches, the virus can invade the nervous system of other mammals. When animals lick wounds, broken skin, or the lining of the mouth and nose, the disease can also be transmitted. Dogs are normally responsible for spreading this disease in humans, but there are reports of human rabies due to bites from cats, mongooses, jackals, foxes, wolves and other carnivorous animals.
Livestock OwnersCattle and buffalo do not bite when they carry the virus. But, precaution should be taken when examining sick animals who are salivating.
Often, livestock owners will mistake this disease with foot-and-mouth disease, haemorrhagic septicaemia or choking and try to administer drugs by hand. This can cause the virus to infect the livestock owner.
The evidence does not support the spread of rabies to humans through the consumption of milk. But, individuals who slaughter rabies-infected animals and handle the brain or other infected material can be at risk. There are also no human cases due to the consumption of cooked meat.
Human-to-Human TransmissionHuman-to-human transmission of this disease through corneal or other organ transplants is rare, but possible and has happened. That is why corneas and organs should not be collected from patients who suffer from this virus. Although it is unlikely that rabies patients will bite others, caregivers should be alert when looking after them and avoid any contact with the patient’s saliva.
Treating Animal BitesThere are precautions that should be taken if a person does get bit by an animal. They are as follows:
- Wash and flush the wound immediately with soap and water for 10-15 minutes. If soap is not available, flush the wound with water. This is the most effective treatment against rabies!
- Wounds should be thoroughly cleaned with 70% alcohol/ethanol or povidone-iodine, if available.
- As soon as possible, take the person to a healthcare facility for further treatment.
- Apply any irritants to the wound.
- Cover the wound with a bandage or dressing.
Responsible Pet OwnersSo, what can YOU do as a responsible pet owner? Vaccinate your animals and keep them away from any wildlife that can spread disease. Rabies is 100% preventable! Get your pet in to see your veterinarian for a vaccination and play a key role in the prevention of rabies.
More Information…For more information regarding rabies, please contact Cole Veterinary Hospital at: