Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, and it is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. The virus is typically transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Rabies can affect any mammal, but dogs, bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes are the primary carriers.
The rabies virus is usually transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal entering the body through broken skin, such as from a bite or scratch. It can also be transmitted if infected saliva comes into contact with mucous membranes or open wounds.
Rabies symptoms can take weeks to months to appear after exposure. The early signs may include fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include anxiety, confusion, insomnia, hallucinations, paralysis, and difficulty swallowing. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is almost always fatal.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent rabies. Routine vaccination of domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, is essential to prevent the spread of the disease. Additionally, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for individuals who have been bitten, scratched, or had contact with the saliva of a potentially rabid animal. PEP involves a series of injections with rabies immune globulin and the rabies vaccine.
Certain activities, such as exploring caves, working with animals, or travelling to regions where rabies is more prevalent, may increase the risk of exposure. It’s important to take precautions and follow safety guidelines, including avoiding contact with wild animals and ensuring pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations.
Rabies is found worldwide, except for a few countries that are considered rabies-free. The incidence of rabies varies across different regions, with the highest number of cases occurring in Asia and Africa.
Types of Rabies Vaccines: There are two main types of rabies vaccines:
a. Pre-exposure Prophylaxis: This vaccine is given to individuals who are at a higher risk of exposure to rabies, such as laboratory workers, animal handlers, veterinarians and travellers visiting areas with a high prevalence of rabies. It consists of a series of injections given over a specific time period.
b. Post-exposure Prophylaxis: This vaccine is administered after a person has been bitten or exposed to an animal suspected of having rabies. It includes a combination of rabies vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) given near the bite wound or through intramuscular injection.
The pre-exposure prophylaxis rabies vaccine is typically given as a series of three doses over a 28-day period. Booster doses may be required for individuals with continued or increased risk of exposure. The post-exposure prophylaxis vaccine schedule varies based on the severity and location of the bite, and it is determined by healthcare professionals.
The rabies vaccine is highly effective in preventing rabies if administered promptly and according to the recommended schedule. It stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the rabies virus, providing protection.
In addition to the rabies vaccine, post-exposure treatment for individuals who have been bitten or exposed to a potentially rabid animal may include wound cleansing, administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), and a series of rabies vaccine shots.
While the rabies vaccine provides protection, it’s important to take precautions to avoid exposure to potentially rabid animals. This includes avoiding contact with stray animals, ensuring pets are vaccinated against rabies, and seeking immediate medical attention in case of animal bites or scratches.
Vaccine Side Effects
The rabies vaccine is generally safe. Common side effects may include soreness or redness at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, and mild fever. Serious side effects are rare.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you have been bitten or exposed to a potentially rabid animal. Healthcare professionals will assess the situation and provide appropriate post-exposure treatment, including the rabies vaccine, if necessary. It’s also recommended to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance on pre-exposure prophylaxis if you are at an increased risk of exposure to rabies.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider or a local public health authority for specific guidance on rabies prevention and management, as recommendations may vary depending on your location and the circumstances of exposure.