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What is Rabies? Who gets Rabies? Rabies is a viral disease of humans
and other mammals. It is most common in carnivores. The word rabies comes from
the word "hydrophobia", fear of water. Rabies is a potentially deadly disease.
There are many things you can do to prevent yourself from meeting
rabies. The most important thing to do, is to be certain your pets have updated
vaccinations. Your pets can first get their vaccinations when they are three
months old. After that booster vaccinations must be given every one to three
years according to your state and city laws. It also depends on the type of
Most people associate rabies with dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, wolves,
etc. The most common animals to have rabies are dogs, cats, and raccoons.
Rabies cases in cats have outnumbered all other domestic animals every year
since 1988. There was fifty-three percents increase in cat rabies between 1991-
1992. Most of the cases with cats have been unvaccinated strays.
Even if your pets do not go outside, they should still be vaccinated.
You cannot tell if you pet will accidentally get out or an infected animal will
get in. Avoid close contact with any wild animal. Never feed, handle, pet, or
take any wild animals in. Rabid animals will usually act in an abnormal way,
have a foamy saliva around the mouth, and show a loss of hair or fur. If the
animal is nocturnal, it may be out during the day. Rabid animals are usually
very outgoing and aggressive.
To keep wildlife away from your home avoid leaving pet food outside, and
keep the lids on trash cans secure, or store them inside a garage or shed. You
can prevent wildlife from your entering you home by sealing holes and screening
chimneys. If a wild animal does get in, do not touch it. Call your local
animal-control officer or humane society and let them remove it.
The rabies virus can be transmitted in three different ways. These are
through saliva, the bite of an infected animal, and by contact through the mucus
membranes, or breaks in the skin.
Symptoms develop in ten to fifty days after exposure to this virus.
Symptoms in humans usually begin with depression, restlessness, fatigue, and a
fever. This is followed by a period of excitability, excessive salivation, and
convulsions, especially in throat spasms. The victim is unable to drink
although he or she is extremely thirsty. Death from paralysis and suffocation
follows within ten days. Once the symptoms of rabies have appeared, there is no
possible treatment for the disease.
The first vaccine against rabies was developed in France during the
1880's by Louis Pasteur. Rabies cases in humans have since become rare in the
United States and other developed countries. This is because of the vaccination
programs for domestic animals. People in high risk occupations such as
veterinarians, forest-service, and health workers in developing countries are
also often treated against the disease. In 1987 a less expensive, low-dose
vaccine was introduced for a wider use by campers, travelers, etc. This is a
series of shots that is painful, but it works very well. This is the latest
type of vaccine available.
There are four things you can do if you are bitten by an animal that
might have rabies. You should wash any wounds thoroughly with warm soapy water.
Immediately after, call your doctor or go to an emergency room. Collect as much
information about the animal as possible. If it is someone else's pet, find out
if it's rabies vaccinations are up to date. Then report the incident to you
local animal control officer or health board. This is all you can do about the
incident. There are very few rabies cases reported each year. The few cases
reported, mostly with the contact off wild animals. The wild animals that are
most frequently related with the spread of rabies are skunks, foxes, coyotes,
raccoons, rabbits, bats, stray cats, squirrels, rats, and other small rodents.
Despite the few cases reported, more people and animals die of rabies
every year. Fortunately, there are vaccines to help prevent the kind of virus
from spreading and taking animal or human lives.