Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system and triggers acute encephalitis. The deadly virus gets transmitted from animals to humans. It is most commonly caused by animal bites, though there have been cases of human beings contracting rabies after inhaling air in bat caves. Rabies is said to be always fatal unless prompt treatment is sought before the beginning of the symptoms.
If those people who have been infected by the rabies virus do not receive post-exposure prophylaxis or preventative treatment after they are exposed to the virus, they will develop fever, muscle pains and headache that will progress to brain inflammation, confusion, paralysis, seizure, coma and death.
Once the virus reaches the nerves, it cannot be cured. Therefore, any suspicious animal contact must be treated immediately with rabies immunoglobulin injection, rabies vaccine and antibiotics. The time that it takes from initial infection to the onset of symptoms usually is between 4 to 8 weeks long. In some cases, it may take as little as a week and as long as a year.
It may seem like a rare disease but rabies kills more than 55, 000 people each year worldwide. About 95 percent of these people live in Asia and Africa. Most of the cases of rabies are caused by dog bites. Since 30 to 60 percent of the victims are children below the age of 15 years, they do not report the bites unless it has hurt them enough to wound them severely; sometimes, the parents also do not give much thought until the child starts showing the symptoms. This results in much higher risk of complications as well as deaths in the children, compared with adults. It is possible that the total number of deaths in different parts of the world is way higher than the official estimates.
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