Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Rabies infections in humans are rare, but when a person does contract rabies, it can be serious. Rabies is a virus that is normally transmitted from animal to human through bites. If a bite from a rabid animal goes untreated, it can lead to brain damage or death.
There are approximately 7000 cases of rabies in animals reported every year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Raccoons are the most common carriers of rabies in the U.S., but bats are more likely to infect humans – more than ¾ of all cases of rabies between 1990 and 2001 came from bat bites. Transmission from dogs to humans is rare in the U.S. due to vaccination programs.
Infected animals carry the virus in their saliva and usually pass it through bites, but in rare cases, scratches, open wounds, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) that come in contacted with an infected animal’s saliva can spread the virus to a person. When an infected animal bites a human the virus is transmitted from the saliva into the wound, where it then spreads to the surrounding muscle and travels through a person’s nerves to the brain. Once the virus spreads to the brain, it causes severe, permanent injury.
Getting medical attention when warning signs of rabies begin is important because if it is detected and treated early, a person can make a full recovery. Symptoms of the virus appear about 4 days after a person is infected. Early signs and symptoms include:
Tingling or twitching in the area around the bite
Loss of appetite
When the infection spreads the following symptoms may appear:
Excessive movements or agitation
Bizarre or abnormal thoughts
Weakness or paralysis
Sensitivity to bright lights, sounds or touch
Increased production of saliva or tears
Problems moving facial muscles
Abnormal movements of the muscles that control breathing
If a person is bitten by an animal, regardless of whether or not the animal has rabies, a doctor should be consulted because any animal bite can lead to infection. To treat animal bites you should:
Wash the bite area with soap and water for 10 minutes and cover the bite with a clean bandage
Call your doctor or go to the ER
Call your local animal control to help find the animal. The animal will need to be held for observation to see if it has rabies
In the past, rabies injections were given in the stomach, but treatment now includes a shot of immune globulin (antibodies to help the person’s body fight infection) to the wound area and a series of injections of rabies vaccine in the arm, so it is not as uncomfortable for the person being treated.
Teach your children to never handle unfamiliar animals, even if they appear to be friendly, and make sure that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date.