Rabies : Viral Disease – Symptoms

Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease (i.e. it can be transmitted from animals to humans) which affects domestic and wild animals.

It is a viral disease transmitted to animals and humans through close contact with the saliva from infected animals through bites, scratches, or licks on broken skin and mucous membranes.

Rabies is usually spread to humans from infected stray dogs. In addition, some other animals can also spread rabies. These include cats, foxes, bats, raccoons and skunks.

Usually the incubation period of rabies is 1–3 months, but may vary from less than 1 week to more than 1 year.

The initial symptoms of rabies are usually non-specific and suggest involvement of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and/or central nervous systems.

The symptoms of rabies are initially non-specific but progress to mild fever, pain at the site of bite, anxiety, agitation, increased excitability, hydrophobia (fear of water), aerophobia (fear of fresh air), etc. Once symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is fatal to both animals and humans.

The symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain and tingling at the site of the bite
  • Ten days later, the patient may experience-
  • Anxiety, agitation or depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Drooling
  • Convulsions
  • Increased excitability, which is the hallmark of the condition
  • Hydrophobia (fear of water) is present in half the patients. This is usually due to a difficulty with swallowing.
  • Aerophobia (fear of fresh air) is considered a characteristic feature of rabies
  • The patient goes on to develop fits and respiratory paralysis.

Death usually occurs within 10-14 days. Without intensive care, death occurs during the first seven days of illness.

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