Rabies

Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 01/03/2001  Last Updated: 01/03/2001

Patient Education

What is Rabies?

Rabies is an ancient disease affecting humankind since times innumerable caused by the rabies virus. Rabies is a fatal disease caused by the bite of a rabid dog. Two types of clinical rabies are described - “furious” type which affects the majority of the patients and the “paralytic” type which affects around 20 percent of patients. Patients die due to the affection of the brain.

How does Rabies spread?

Rabies is a disease, transmitted to humans by the bite of infected rabid animals most often dogs. It can also spread rarely by the bite of infected cats, foxes, monkeys, rodents. The rabies virus is present in the saliva of these infected animals and can rarely spread through lick, the scratch of an infected animal. Infection also occurs in rare cases through inhalation of a virus as from bats and rarely through organ transplantation.

What are the symptoms of Rabies?

After a bite from a rabid dog, the patient may remain alright for 20 to 180 days. Most of the time numbness or cramps occur at the bite site. After this period, patients generally get a high-grade fever, acute headache, uneasiness, phobia of water (hydrophobia), phobias of wind and fans and the child will behave abnormally and even become violent (furious rabies). The patient cannot stand or stay in one spot. With progression, it can lead to coma and death between five to twenty-one days. The paralytic rabies is characterized by paralysis, coma, and death.

How is the diagnosis of Rabies made?

Diagnosis of Rabies is mainly based on patient history, symptoms, and signs. Diagnosis can be confirmed by demonstration of the virus under an electron microscope from a biopsy from the brain of by antibody tests in the various body fluids.

How is Rabies treated?

Once a child develops symptoms of rabies, one cannot cure the disease and death is very likely. However one can prevent rabies by taking the rabies vaccine. If a child gets bitten by a dog, the wound should be washed with running tap water and soap for 10 minutes. Antiseptic should be applied to the wound and tetanus injection may be required if not received. Children should be given rabies immunoglobulin and rabies vaccine. Rabies vaccine can be given on Day 0, 1, 3, 7, 21, and 90 days. If the dog dies, the entire course should be given. If the dog survives after 10 days, then there is no need to continue the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) after that.


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