RABIES: A FATAL DISEASE

From a health perspective, an animal bite is a dangerous injury. Even a minor bite has the potential to lead to infection. In some cases, those infections could be deadly.

One such infection that you need to watch out for is rabies. This disease is fatal in nearly every case; only around eight to 10 people have ever survived this disease without receiving the vaccine after the initial exposure.

While most cases are caused by bites from raccoons, skunks and other wild animals, it’s possible to suffer a rabies infection from a dog or cat. The virus can enter the body through a scratch, contact with mucous membranes or through saliva. Interestingly, ultraviolet light quickly destroys the virus, so things like water bowls or animal bedding won’t pose a risk even if an animal was infected with the virus.

People aren’t exposed to rabies often, but those who are require emergency care as quickly as possible. The wound needs immediate cleaning with soap and water. Individuals may receive a tetanus vaccine along with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Antibiotics may also be given to reduce the risk of further infection. If an animal is available for quarantine or testing, then an individual may not need the rabies vaccine unless the animal is found positive for the disease.

In most cases, bites are the only thing serious enough to require post-exposure prophylaxis, but even nonbite exposure could pose a threat. Patients need to be seen by medical professionals promptly to determine if the treatment is necessary. The owner of the infected animal should be held responsible for any medical treatment you need.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, “Animal Bites and Rabies Risk: A Guide for Health Professionals,” accessed Jan. 03, 2018

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