Rabies is an acute infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the rabies virus – rhabdovirus. Rabies virus leads to severe damage to the nervous system – specific encephalitis and, as a rule, ends with the death of the patient – after the onset of symptoms of the disease, there is no chance of salvation. Prevent the development of the disease can only urgent vaccination immediately after infection.
How rabies virus infection occurs
The main carriers of rabies virus are animals: both wild – wolves, foxes, rats, and agricultural, domestic and homeless – cows, dogs, cats. Theoretically, any warm-blooded animal, including humans, can be a virus carrier. But in most cases, a person is infected with a bite of a sick dog.
Rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of a sick animal, and infection occurs when a bite or saliva enters an open wound, scratch or abrasion. (The latter usually happens when an affectionate pet falls ill – it licks its owner and may well bring the virus into a small wound on the skin.) The danger is that rabies cause aggression in a sick animal, and it tries to bite everyone around, so the risk of infection when meeting an infected animal is quite high.
How does rabies virus manifest
From the place where the rabies virus enters the body through nerve fibers, it moves to the brain, where it causes inflammation – specific encephalitis. Then the first symptoms of the disease arise. The incubation period of the disease averages 1-2 months, but can be much shorter – 1 week, and much longer – more than 1 year. It depends on how far the site of the virus penetration is from the brain and how many viruses have got into the wound.
The disease in its development passes through three stages:
The prodromal stage lasts from 1 to 4 days and is characterized by headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, and fever. At the site of the bite, the sensitivity of the skin is increased, the muscles twitch slightly.
The stage of excitement lasts from 4 days to a week. During this period, the patient periodically experiences bouts of psychomotor agitation – sensitivity to light, sounds sharply increases, delusions and hallucinations occur. A person experiences fear, becomes aggressive. Cramps and muscle paralysis develop. The temperature rises significantly – up to 40 degrees. With the development of the disease, seizures become more frequent, and the intervals between them become shorter.
Stage paralysis is characterized by paresis of the facial muscles. Paralysis of the eye muscles occurs, swallowing function is impaired. Salivation appears, foam in the mouth, which is characteristic of rabies. Often, a fear of water develops: when you try to drink, involuntary contractions of the respiratory muscles occur.
Usually the disease lasts about 2 months, but it can also proceed rapidly – in 10 days. Death occurs, as a rule, from respiratory arrest.
How rabies is diagnosed
Along with the history of the disease (animal bite with suspected rabies, saliva on damaged skin), laboratory tests are also used, in particular, antibodies to rabies virus in the blood, virus antigen in the skin are determined.
Rabies during the development of symptoms is an incurable disease, therefore only symptomatic treatment is carried out aimed at alleviating the manifestations of the disease: anticonvulsants, painkillers, sleeping pills, etc.
What to do if you suspect a rabies virus infection
If a dog bites, it is necessary to wash the damaged area with soap and water, preferably household soap, treat with hydrogen peroxide and immediately consult a doctor to get vaccinated. It is effective only in the first 2 weeks after the virus enters the bloodstream. If possible, the dog should be monitored for 10 days, and if it does not die and does not show signs of rabies, vaccination can be stopped.
Depending on the location of the wound, its depth, the doctor will choose a method of prevention. Most often, this is a single injection of rabies immunoglobulin or serum and vaccination. Vaccines are administered 6 times: the first – on the day of seeking help (it is considered zero), and then on the 3rd, 7th, 14th, 30th and 90th days. For the entire vaccination period and within 6 months after its end, the use of any alcohol is contraindicated. The vaccineer should avoid heavy loads, overheating and hypothermia, so as not to reduce the effectiveness of vaccination.