Back to Infectious Diseases
Rabies is an acute encephalitis (infection of the brain) caused by a
virus believed to be infectious for most mammals. Transmission of the virus
is usually through a bite. Transmission also can occur by exposure of a
scratch, abrasion, open wound or mucous membrane to saliva or brain material
of a rabid animal. The virus has an affinity for the central nervous system
tissue and travels along the peripheral nerves to the brain. Once the virus
is established in the brain the disease is seldom reversible and usually
fatal. The average incubation period varies from 20-90 days after exposure
and depends on the following circumstances: a) severity of bite or laceration,
b) location of bite (incubation periods may be shorter after bites on head,
neck, and fingertips, than bites on the trunk or lower extremities due to
extensive nerve endings in the former areas), c) age of the victim (children
have faster onset). Two clinical patterns may be manifest and are referred
to as "dumb" or paralytic rabies and furious rabies (prone to bite).
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Furious ?classical? rabies (dogs): hydrophobia, aerophobia
+ convulsions / paralysis
Dumb ?paralytic? rabies (bats): paralysis similar
to Guillan Barre in development.
If someone is bitten by a cat, dog or any animal:
- Wash the wound immediately with soap and running water for at least
- See a physician immediately, even for minor wounds
- If your pet bites someone or has been bitten, immediately confine
the pet and contact the local animal control officer or public health
agency and check with your veterinarian for treatment and rabies vaccination
- If the bite is from a wild or stray animal, DO NOT try to capture
the animal unless you are sure you can do so without incurring injury.
- Do not destroy the animal which has bitten a human or other animal.
Contact the local animal control officer or public health agency.