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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rabies : symptoms, prevention and cure

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The Dog has been a faithful friend of man since the first step of the human civilization. It not only guards his house but also helps in defending him from his enemies, in catching criminals, searching out bodies of human beings after a disaster like earth quake, and in spying. Today dogs are being employed in armies as well. Here I don’t mean - the army of dogs. I mean that the groups of trained dogs are kept by armies to help them in various ways.

Faithfulness and the capacities of seeing, hearing, identification etc. have acquired a special place for a dog in the life of human being than all the other pet animals. People, both the rich and the poor, keep and care dogs with love and pride. A trained and well cared dog may be a valued possession of a family. Besides all the services a dog provides a man, it plays with him, and takes care of the old people and young children also.
If your dog is sick, it deserves proper medical care and timely treatment also. His good health is necessary not alone for his life but for the well being of the community of dogs and human beings as well. If your dog is rabid i.e. if it has been caught by rabies, it is dangerous for your family and the whole community of dogs and human being.

What is Rabies?
Rabies is a dangerous disease which spreads through bites by a rabid animal. If a dog is rabid its disease may spread through its saliva or through its bite. If a rabid dog bites a cow, the disease may spread through the saliva of the cow also.

Identification of rabies in a dog
Now, how can we identify a rabid dog? We can identify a rabid dog by observing certain symptoms that may be found in it. The first symptom of the disease is the change in the behavior of the dog. Such dogs often become shy, nervous and aloof. Some dogs start showing extra affection to his owner at this stage. In the second stage the dog gradually becomes ferocious. Finally, the dog becomes irritant and angry. It starts wandering here and there aimlessly. Its lower jaw comes slightly down and saliva continues dripping from its tongue. At this time it tends to attack on anything that may come on its way. Its mind gets retarded completely and it often starts running to attack even on imaginary things. When this dog bites an animal or a man, or the victim comes in contact with its saliva, the rabies is sure to be caused in the victim if it is not kept under appropriate medical care immediately.

The disease conditions: symptoms and causal agent
Rabies produces dangerous conditions. It is caused through a deadly virus so far known as Rhabdovirus or lyssa virus. The Rhabdovirus is a RNA-virus which can infect any mammal. However, the best suited animals for the infection by rhabdovirus are – Raccoons, Skunks, Foxes, Coyotes, and Bats. On entering into the body through animal bite or contact, the rabies virus escapes out from our immune system and hurries towards the nervous pathway. Under this condition since no immune response is developed in the body, it safely moves to the central nervous system where it replicates very fast to produce numerous viruses that spread into most parts of the brain. The brain becomes inflamed due to infection by the viruses. Finally the viruses spread in the whole body including salivary glands, mucous membranes and skin.

Symptoms of rabies take a time period ranging from three weeks to three months to appear in the patient whether an animal or a man. In specific this time period may range up to as long as several years. Ones the infection occurs, the disease develop in two phases – the Prodomal Phase or the prelude, and the Neurological Phase.

The first phase may cause fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, headache and pain at the site of bite by a rabid dog (or a rabid animal other than a dog. During this time the autonomic nervous system is affected which manifests as copious salivation. The neurological phase may cause paralysis, and accumulation of spasm in the throat obstructing any thing that may go into the stomach. At this stage the patient fears from water that is why this disease is also called as Hydrophobia. It is this phase under which dogs become hyperactive and mad and start biting any one who comes in their ways.

Once, the symptoms of rabies appear in a man or an animal, the rate of mortality goes as high as 100 percent. The World Health Organization has reported that from 40,000 to 70,000 people die per year due to rabies infections and most of these belong to India. As such India should follow strict discipline in importing and exporting animals. However if appropriate medical care and treatment follows in time the disease can be prevented from developing in the victim.

Rabies is prevalent in many parts of the world including Asia, USA, Africa, Greenland, and many countries of Europe. However, it is reported that some parts of Scandinavia, and British Isles, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are free from this disease. These countries have strict regulations on importing animals and it shows that these countries are very keen to maintain their rabies free status in the world.

Prevention
1. Avoid stray dogs and other wild mammals, and don’t go in contact of sick animals.

2. Get your dog inoculated in time with anti-rabies vaccine.

3. Don’t allow your dog to go in contact with stray dogs.

4. If a rabid dog or animal bites someone, help him in getting appropriate care and medical treatment immediately. His wound must be washed with soapy water or a virucidal agent such as povidine-iodine solution.

5. Even if the victim has already been vaccinated, he should go for medical help to assess the further need for rabies immunoglobulin and a booster vaccination. The victim should also be protected from tetanus through proper vaccination.

Rabies can be prevented through vaccination soon after the bite by a rabid animal. The anti-rabies vaccine should be administered even when it is not confirmed that the dog or the other animal is rabid. Earlier anti-rabies vaccines were less effective and had to be administered by as many as 14 injections into the stomach. Now, the vaccine is much improved and ony three injections are to be given to the patient – first two with an interval of one week and the last one three weeks later.

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