CHAPEL HILL, N.C., July 17 Rabies is a virus that occurs in mammals and infects the central nervous system; the disease can cause death in humans if it is not treated. Nearly 90 percent of cases occur in wild animals (raccoons, bats, foxes etc.); less than 10% of cases occur in domestic animals like dogs or cats. Humans usually become infected when they are bitten by an infected animal.
Early symptoms of rabies are fever, headache and general malaise. Since these are similar to other illnesses, infected persons often do not seek treatment because they are unaware they have rabies.
Progressive symptoms include:
If you have been bitten by any animal you should seek medical care immediately. After possible exposure to rabies, the wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. Treatment for someone who has contracted rabies is called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP. PEP treatment consists of one dose of a substance called immune globulin and five doses of the rabies vaccine over 28 days, both of which help your body fight the virus. Treatment must be given as soon after exposure as possible for the best chance of recovery.
If you see an animal you suspect of having rabies, you should call your local health department or animal control agency. These agencies will have ways to safely remove the animal from the area so that no one becomes infected. Infected animals often display symptoms similar to those listed above and may seem to be acting strangely or seen somewhere outside their normal habitat.
The best way to prevent the spread of rabies is to have all your pets vaccinated against the virus. This will also help prevent them from being infected if they come in contact with an infected animal.
NC Health Info is a guide to reliable health and medical information that links users to local health services throughout North Carolina. Visit this month's feature on rabies by visiting www.NCHealthInfo.org.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
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SOURCE NC Health Info