Disease overview

What is rabies?

Rabies is a disease that can affect domestic animals, wild animals, and humans. It is caused by a virus and is mostly transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Once symptoms of the disease are visible, rabies is fatal. Fortunately, rabies is highly preventable through routine vaccination. If a person has already been exposed to rabies, vaccination can also be part of the treatment if it is given within a certain time after the exposure.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

The symptoms of rabies are usually seen 4 — 8 weeks after contact with a rabid animal, although in some cases it may take several months before the disease becomes apparent. The rabies virus affects central nervous tissue, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • slight or partial paralysis
  • excitation
  • agitation
  • aggression
  • hypersalivation
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hydrophobia (fear of water)
  • Once symptoms appear, they usually progress toward
    paralysis, coma and, ultimately, death.

What happens if I suspect I have been exposed
to rabies infection?

If you or someone you know thinks they may have been exposed to rabies infection, the following steps should be carried out, including contacting a suitable healthcare professional:

  • Immediate and thorough cleansing of the wound with soap and water
  • Disinfection of the wound with a suitable disinfectant
  • Administration of anti-rabies vaccine
  • The use of immunoglobulins may also be considered depending on the severity of the wound(s)