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Health > First Aid >Rabies


Rabies is a viral infection of certain warm-blooded animals and is caused by a virus in the Rhabdoviridae family. It attacks the nervous system and, once symptoms develop, it is 100 percent fatal in animals, if left untreated.

How does rabies occur?

The rabies virus enters the body through a cut or scratch, or through mucous membranes (such as the lining of the mouth and eyes), and travels to the central nervous system. Once the infection is established in the brain, the virus travels down the nerves from the brain and multiplies in different organs.

The salivary glands and organs are most important in the spread of rabies from one animal to another. When an infected animal bites another animal, the rabies virus is transmitted through the infected animal's saliva. Scratches by claws of rabid animals are also dangerous because these animals lick their claws.


Stage first

Initial period of vague symptoms, lasting two to 10 days

Vague symptoms may include:




Decreased appetite


Pain, itching or numbness and tingling at the site of the wound

Stage second

Patients often develop difficulty in swallowing (sometimes referred to as "foaming at the mouth") due to the inability to swallow saliva - even the sight of water may terrify the patient

Some patients become agitated and disoriented, while others become paralyzed

Immediate death, or coma resulting in death from other complications, may result

Treatment for rabies:

Unfortunately, there is no known, effective treatment for rabies once symptoms of the disease occur. However, there is an effective new vaccine which provides immunity to rabies when administered after an exposure. It may also be used for protection before an exposure occurs, for persons such as veterinarians and animal handlers.

Reporting the incident to your healthcare provider:

If you or someone you know is bitten by an animal, remember these facts to report to your healthcare provider:

Location of the accident

Type of animal involved (domestic pet or wild animal)

Type of exposure (cut, scratch, licking of open wound)

Part of the body involved

Number of exposures

Whether or not the animal has been immunized against rabies

Whether or not the animal is sick or well - if "sick," what symptoms were present in the animal

Whether or not the animal is available for testing or quarantine

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