What Facts Do You Know About Rabies?
Over 59,000 people globally die of rabies annually. 95% of that population is located in Africa and Asia according to World Health Organization (WHO). WHO observed that cases of rabies are prevalent in ‘poor and disadvantaged populations who often have limited access to healthcare.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It can infect any warm-blooded animal including dogs, bats, foxes, raccoons, and sometimes, cats. These animal carriers can in turn transmit it to humans making it a zoonic disease.
99% of the time, rabies is transmitted from animal to man through dog bites. However, it can also spread through saliva and scratches from an infected animal. Fortunately, it cannot spread through closed skin. For instance, if you have no scratches or wounds on your body, an infected dog can lick your skin and you will still be safe.
Rabies can be fatal if not properly handled speedily. Unfortunately, the incubation period in humans can vary between 20 days and 60 days
How then can you protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies?
Early treatment of rabies can help prevent a fatality. Here are some steps you can take to prevent contracting rabies/avoiding death from the disease –
If you own a pet like a dog, the first step is to ensure that you vaccinate your pet as often as required. This will go a long way in reducing human infection.
Where there is an open wound inflicted by a rabid animal, wash the wound with soap and a copious amount of water immediately. Then rush to a medical facility as soon as possible. This prompt action can save lives.
Go for rabies vaccination –
1. If you live in areas prone to rabies or you intend to travel to such an area. Health workers will give you a pre-exposure vaccine in the right doses as a precaution against rabies.
2. If you have been in contact with a rabid animal, the medical personnel will determine the best course of action to take which may include post-exposure vaccination.
If you come in contact with a rabid pet like a dog or cat that is not yours, immediately look for the owner so you can ascertain the vaccination status of the animal. Otherwise, run to the nearest medical facility.
If your pet is infected by another animal, take it to a veterinary doctor as soon as possible. Note however that an infected animal can only transmit rabies after the onset of clinical signs.
What are the signs/symptoms of rabies?
The early signs/symptoms of rabies in man and animals usually include –
- Changes in behavior like aggression, withdrawal or even getting too friendly.
- Feeling generally unwell
- Feeling scared or anxious
Advanced signs/symptoms may include –
- Hydrophobia (fear of water)
- With time, the infected animal/human may develop hypersensitivity to light and sound.
- This could be followed by seizures.
- In some cases, the patient may become too vicious and unfriendly.
- Typically, when the rabies infection enters its final stages, paralysis of the nerves that control the head and throat sets in.
- Inability to swallow and hyper-salivation (production of excess saliva) will begin and inevitably, the paralysis will progress until the victim eventually goes into respiratory failure followed by death.
According to WHO, Rabies is one of the neglected tropical vaccine-preventable diseases. Nigeria, like most poor and disadvantaged areas, is prone to rabies. If you must own a pet in Nigeria, make sure you constantly take it for medical checkups and do not allow it to stray.
Take prompt action against rabies if you have any reason to think that you have been in contact with any rabid animal, including dogs, bats, and cats.