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What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is present in saliva and in the nervous tissue of a rabid animal. More than 95% of human deaths due to Rabies occur in Africa and Asia. Once symptoms of the disease develop, Rabies is always fatal. It is most often found among wild mammals, such as bats, but dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, and livestock can also get it. In Flores, dogs are the most common transmitters of the disease.
How can I get infected with Rabies?
People get usually exposed to the Rabies virus when an infected animal bites them. Exposure may also occur by a scratch inflicted by an infected animal, or when saliva enters an open cut or mucous membrane (nose, eyes, mouth). Many people have been exposed to the Rabies virus by handling their pets after an attack from a rabid animal and getting the attacker’s saliva on their hands.
How do I recognise a rabid animal?
The first sign of Rabies in an animal is usually marked by a change in behaviour. Animals with Rabies may become unusually withdrawn or tame and friendly. Some become excited, irritable, aggressive, and may bite or snap. Staggering, convulsions or frothing at the mouth are sometimes seen.
What should I do in case...?
Prompt treatment following exposure to or a bite from an animal suspected of having Rabies can prevent human illness.
The following actions are recommended:
- Immediately wash the wound and exposed surface with soap and water for at least 5-10 minutes;
- Remove any clothing that may have been contaminated;
- Seek medical advice immediately!
Treatment must begin immediately!
How is Rabies treated in humans?
Human treatment consists of a dose of Rabies-immune globulin administered as soon as possible after exposure. People in high-risk occupations (such as veterinarians, wildlife biologists, wildlife rehabilitators, animal control officers and taxidermists) often do get Rabies pre-exposure vaccination. Boosters are generally required every two years, if the risk of contact continues. A Rabies pre-exposure-vaccinated person later exposed to Rabies must receive booster injections immediately after exposure. While the treatment is safe, there can be side effects. Therefore, it is only used when there has been exposure to a confirmed or suspected rabid animal.
When do symptoms appear?
The incubation period for Rabies is typically 1-3 months, but may vary from one week to one year. It can depend on a number of factors, including the strain of Rabies and the location of the bite. However, it is important to note that an animal can already transmit the disease a few days before showing any clinical signs.
The initial symptoms of Rabies are fever and often pain, or an unusual, unexplained tingling, prickling or burning sensation (paraesthesia) at and around the wound.
There is NO treatment for Rabies AFTER symptoms appear!
How can I protect myself from Rabies?
- Do not keep wild animals as pets (even animals born in captivity can be Rabies carriers);
- If you have to touch a dead animal, protect your hands with heavy plastic (gloves or trash bag);
- Children should be taught to immediately report any bite, scratch, or contact with a strange or wild animal;
- Never try to coax a wild animal to eat from your hand;
- Healthy bats rarely lie on horizontal surfaces – do not touch them;
- Stay away from all wild animals and unknown dogs and cats (even when they appear friendly).
Do not try to decide on your own whether an animal is rabid or whether a bite could be dangerous.
Seek medical advice immediately after (suspected) exposure!
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