R is for Rabies

R is for Rabies

Global distribution risk of humans contracting rabies (www.who.int)

Global distribution risk of humans contracting rabies (www.who.int)

Rabies, a word that is feared in much of the world, accepted as a part of life in others, and in others considered nothing to worry about. Sadly, all of these reactions to the word are dangerous. The first two are understandable as vaccination of animals is not high on the list of requirements for life, although would greatly improve the quality of life for millions, by allowing them to have a life. Approximately 60,000 people die from rabies annually. More than 15 million people receive post exposure prophylaxis (PEP)each year, preventing millions of deaths. The “nothing to worry about” view is most often found in western countries. This is so sad, because rabies is preventable, but when not prevented, it is fatal. I have posted about rabies previously, World Rabies Day: September 28, 2013. I am posting again, one because rabies is interesting, but also because people still are not paying attention!!!

In the last couple of weeks, I have read at least two articles on people being exposed to rabid cats in the USA. One was in Oneida County, New York when a man was bit by a rabid cat that he found stumbling in his driveway. The other was in Norfolk, Virginia where an individual was bit while trying to feed a stray cat that was rabid, the cat also attacked another person that was trying to get to their car. Most of the United States has laws about dogs being vaccinated for rabies, but cats are not always required to be which in my mind is CRAZY! People will often recognize a dog not acting right, but a cat not acting right doesn’t always produce a red flag of warning for people as many do not even recognize normal cat behavior.

The rabies virus is unique in that it replicates at the site of a bite and then travels along the nerves to the brain, then replicates again before traveling to the salivary glands where it is released in saliva. Therefore, cleaning of a bite wound immediately with hot water and soap is a major component of preventing disease. After that, it is important to then seek medical attention, not only due to rabies, but also other infections. If the animal that has bit someone is available for testing, it is ideal to do. This requires testing of the brain, so unfortunately, it does mean death for the animal in question. If the animal is not available for testing, then the person that has been bitten should under go PEP treatment. When an animal such as a dog, cat, horse, or cow is shedding rabies virus in its saliva, it will die within 10 days from the disease.

People usually think of the ferocious form of rabies – foaming at the mouth and viciously attacking, like “Old Yeller,” but there is also the dumb form of rabies where the patient stumbles around as if drunk with little coordination, with or without foaming at the mouth. Other symptoms can include blindness, hydrophobia (fear of water), the inability to swallow (thus foaming from the mouth), and aerophobia (fear of air), seizures, and paralysis to name a few. Although death comes swiftly, it is not swift enough to protect individuals from the pain and horror of this disease. There have been a few cases of people that have survived without post exposure prophylaxis, it is unknown why they have survived.


Know your local laws for frequency of vaccination. Even it if is not required, please vaccinate as doing so may save a life.


4 thoughts on “R is for Rabies

  1. We were in Germany and my husband was trying to be nice and help a few of the kids coax out a kitten from under a building. He thought it was theirs. When he went to grab it for them, the kitten bit his hand. That’s when he found out it did not belong to the kids and that it was a stray. We had no way of knowing if it was exposed to Rabies but since it’s quite rampant in Germany, my husband had to go through the shots. At least times have changed and it wasn’t the excruciatingly painful shots in the belly button we both grew up fearing. He had a shot that day, then a week later, and a month later, then 3 months and then a 6 month booster. I think that was how it went. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t exposed, but better to be safe than sorry. Right?!

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
    My A to Z
    Caring for My Veteran


    • Ugh, I would be terrified. Knowing too much about the disease and what it does to a person, I would not do well. Luckily, I am vaccinated. But, since I am vaccinated, guess who gets called when there is a bat or a potential case to be handled? That would be me!


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