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Rabies virus information
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DescriptionRabies virus information
A Traveler’s Guide to Rabies:
What it is and how to avoid getting it
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is passed between animals and can transmit from animals to humans. It is caused by the rabies virus (RABV), also known as the Lyssaviruses, which belong to the family Rhabdoviridae – a viral family characterized by a bullet-shape (see Fig. 1).
Rabies tends to be carried by mammals; most commonly the red fox in Europe; the raccoon dog in Asia; the raccoon, skunk, coyotes, red, grey and arctic fox’s in America; stray and feral dogs in Africa, including hyenas; and infected domestic cats, dogs and ferrets worldwide. Recently it is also becoming prevalent in bats. The rabies virus is present in high numbers in the saliva of a rabid animal, Fig.1: RABV therefore the most common means of transmission to humans is by the bite of a rabid animal, but it can be contracted by salivary contact with any open cut. It is estimated that 55 000 people die per year from rabies, 95% of rabies cases in Asia and Africa, and 99% of human cases caught from infected domestic animals.
How does Rabies Spread?
Once the rabies virus has passed the skin layer and entered the body it will infect the nerve cells, using the cells contents to replicate and multiply the virus many times until the cell cannot contain all the viruses. The cell will then undergo lysis and burst, releasing the viruses into the body and allowing them to spread and proliferate along the peripheral nervous system cells until it reaches the spinal cord in the central nervous system. From here they will infect the brain and then spread throughout the body. At this stage symptoms will begin to show.
What are the Symptoms?
Rabies is an encephalomyelitis disease, meaning it causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. It is a true pathogen, so will infect any human regardless of the state of their health and is able to remain undetected by the immune system until it has reached the brain and become symptomatic.
Fig.2: Rabies infected dog
Stage of Infection
The incubation stage before the virus reaches the brain and causes symptoms can last from days to weeks and rarely has any symptoms.
Once the virus has spread to the brain it will often cause fever, excitation, pupil dilation and excess saliva production.
Animals at this stage will become very agitated and aggressive towards everything, often attacking for no reason and losing fear of humans.
During this final stage, infected humans will become hydrophobic so unable to swallow. They will often drift in and out of ...
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