What is rabies?
Rabies is a deadly virus that infects the central nervous system (CNS) and causes acute encephalitis. Rabies can affect all types of warm-blooded animals, including humans. From animals to humans, rabies virus is most often transmitted through animal bites – although there have been cases of infection of people in caves and attics from bats after inhalation of air (inhalation of infection). Infection with rabies is almost always fatal unless treatment is started before symptoms of rabies appear.
Infected people who do not receive prophylactic treatment after exposure to the virus will experience fever, muscle aches, and a headache that eventually leads to inflammation of the brain, cramps, confusion, paralysis, coma, and death. The incubation period of rabies (the time period from the moment of infection to the onset of symptoms) is usually 4 to 8 weeks, in some cases only one week.
More than 55,000 people die from rabies annually worldwide, 95% of them in Asia and Africa. Usually, rabies infection occurs through the bite of infected animals, including dogs, cats, skunks, wolves, foxes, raccoons and bats. Most deaths occur after a dog bite, from 30% to 60% of them are children under the age of 15 years. In most cases, these bites are hidden from parents and health workers, resulting in a much higher risk of complications and mortality among children compared to adults. It is likely that the total number of deaths in many parts of the world is much higher than official figures.