rabies (hydrophobia)

Viral disease that occurs in man and other mammals; foxes and bats are the principal carriers in the wild. The virus is present in infected animals’ saliva, and human beings are infected by biting, scratching or licking. The virus cannot be transmitted through undamaged skin, but could pass through the mucous membrane of mouth or eyes, for example. The virus lives and multiplies in the nerves and brain. First symptoms may occur between ten days and two years after infection with the disease. In man the symptoms are fever, pain and tingling at the site of the wound. Saliva is thick and viscous and contains the virus. Restless, excited behaviour, linked with uninhibited screaming, ends in a genuine fit. A characteristic feature is so-called hydrophobia: any attempt to drink or even the sight of water causes convulsions of the larynx, which make drinking impossible. If these symptoms appear, death is inevitable within a week. Thus prevention of rabies is the only sensible way of controlling the disease. Immunization of cats and dogs is important in areas where the disease still occurs. If one is bitten by a possibly rabid dog or other animal, treatment should be given: the wound is cleaned thoroughly, and an anti-rabies vaccine administered repeatedly. If the animal seems healthy after ten days, treatment can stop, because rabies will not occur.

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