Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and nervous system of animals, including humans. It is one of the world’s deadliest viruses, with a mortality rate of almost 100% if left untreated. Every year, rabies kills around 55,000 people worldwide. Despite being a preventable disease, it remains a significant public health concern in many parts of the world. In this article, we will discuss the mystery behind why rabies is so deadly and its impact on humans and animals.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. The rabies virus is transmitted through infected saliva into the body of a healthy host, typically through a bite from an infected animal. The virus then travels to the brain, where it replicates and spreads throughout the nervous system. If left untreated, it can be deadly. Rabies is a preventable disease, primarily through vaccination, and can be treated if caught early. The presence of rabies in dogs has been eliminated in many developed countries through vaccination programs. However, it still remains a concern in many parts of the world, where dogs are the most significant carrier of the virus.
How does Rabies cause Death?
When the rabies virus enters the body through the bite of an infected animal, it travels to the brain, where it replicates rapidly. The virus then spreads to the rest of the nervous system, causing inflammation (encephalitis) and leading to neurological symptoms. Rabies infection can cause a range of symptoms, such as fever, headache, weakness or paralysis, agitation, excessive salivation, and more. As the virus replicates, it causes inflammation and permanent damage to the central nervous system, leading to seizures, respiratory dysfunction, and eventually, death.
What are the Stages of Rabies?
Rabies infection has three main stages:
- Prodromal stage: This stage lasts for 2-10 days and includes non-specific symptoms such as fever, headache, malaise, and fatigue.
- Furious stage: This stage occurs for 2-7 days and is characterized by agitation, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and excessive salivation.
- Paralytic Stage: This stage typically occurs after 2-3 days and causes muscle weakness or paralysis, leading to respiratory failure and death.
Why is Rabies so Deadly?
Rabies is so deadly primarily due to its mode of action on the nervous system. Once the virus enters the body, it spreads rapidly through the nervous system, causing inflammation and widespread damage. As the virus replicates, it damages neurons, causing irreversible neurological dysfunction. Most other viral infections target specific organs, such as the liver or respiratory system, but rabies acts on the central nervous system, which is responsible for vital functions like breathing, heart rate, and movement. Once rabies reaches the brain, it becomes almost impossible to treat, and the outcome is almost always fatal.
How Fatal is Rabies?
Rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated. Once clinical symptoms of the disease appear, there is no cure, and death is almost inevitable. However, rabies can be prevented entirely through vaccination, making it a preventable disease.
What Animals can carry Rabies?
Most mammals, including humans, can carry rabies. However, the most significant carriers of rabies worldwide are dogs, followed by bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. In the United States, bats are the most common carriers of rabies.
Is it Possible to get Rabies from an Animal Scratch?
Rabies is primarily transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, typically through a bite or scratch. The virus can also be transmitted if infected saliva comes into direct contact with mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. However, the risk of transmission from an animal scratch is relatively low compared to a bite. In most cases, a scratch from an infected animal is not enough to break the skin and expose the wound to the virus. However, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately after any animal scratch, especially if it is from wild or stray animals.
How can Rabies be Prevented?
Rabies can be prevented through vaccination of both humans and animals. In many developed countries, vaccination programs have successfully eliminated rabies in dogs, leading to a significant reduction in human cases. Vaccination for humans is recommended before travel to high-risk areas or contact with wild or stray animals.
What should I do If I am Bitten by an Animal?
If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal, especially if it is from a wild or stray animal, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately. The wound should be cleaned thoroughly and treated with antiseptics, and rabies vaccination may be recommended based on the severity of the bite and the risk of infection.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that has a severe impact on animal and human health worldwide. The virus targets the central nervous system, causing irreversible damage, and almost always leads to death if left untreated. However, rabies is preventable through vaccination and can be treated if caught early. Education about rabies prevention and timely medical attention can help reduce the significant public health burden caused by this deadly virus.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q. Can rabies cause death?
A. Yes, rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated.
Q. What animals can carry rabies?
A. Most mammals, including humans, can carry rabies. However, the most significant carriers of rabies worldwide are dogs, followed by bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
Q. How can rabies be prevented?
A. Rabies can be prevented through vaccination of both humans and animals. In many developed countries, vaccination programs have successfully eliminated rabies in dogs, leading to a significant reduction in human cases.
Q. What should I do if I am bitten by an animal?
A. If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal, especially if it is from a wild or stray animal, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately. The wound should be cleaned thoroughly and treated with antiseptics, and rabies vaccination may be recommended based on the severity of the bite and the risk of infection.
1. World Health Organization(WHO). Top 10 causes of death
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabies
3. Jackson, A. C. (2016). Rabies: scientific basis of the disease and its management (pp. 1-15). Academic Press.