What is rabies and how does it occur?

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The term Rabies means madness and is a deadly disease caused mostly by dogs that have been bitten by bats and other rabies-infected animals.

Rabies is more common in countries where there are a large number of stray dogs and cats, especially in Asia and Africa. As per the World Health Organisation, 99% of human deaths caused by rabies happen through rabies transmitted through dogs. Except for Antarctica, Rabies is everywhere.

More than 3 billion people get infected by rabies and more than 59,000 thousand people die annually due to rabies and approximately 20,000 die in India. India has the highest rate of rabies infections caused by street dogs. 

How does one get Rabies?

When an animal bites a human, the saliva gets through an existing wound or via the bite itself. The infection spreads through the peripheral nervous system through the nerves and enters the brain. 

Symptoms of Rabies

There are two types of the Rabies disease:

Furious Rabies:

  • Those with furious rabies display signs of hyperactivity, erratic behavior, hydrophobia (fear of water), problems swallowing. Death usually occurs in a few days due to cardio-respiratory arrest.

Paralytic Rabies: 

  • This form of rabies takes longer before it shows symptoms and is less dramatic. The symptoms are equally severe with muscles gradually becoming paralyzed and the patient finally slipping into a coma and dying.  

Which animals spread Rabies?

Most wild and domesticated animals can spread the deadly rabies virus. The animals listed below are the main sources of rabies infection in humans:

  • dogs
  • bats
  • ferrets
  • cats
  • cows
  • goats
  • horses
  • rabbits
  • beavers
  • coyotes
  • foxes
  • monkeys
  • raccoons
  • skunks
  • woodchucks

Remember Rabies is an incurable disease but a completely preventable one. There are vaccines available to prevent the disease. Vaccinating dogs is an effective way of preventing rabies in humans. Timely and effective treatment soon after exposure to rabies can prevent the onset of symptoms and death.

So be careful before you play with street dogs, cats, and raccoons.  

Also, the 28th of September is World Rabies Day, remember to add that to your calendar!

Sources: WHO, Brittanica


Arya is an avid learner and loves to write. He likes to take on new interesting topics through in-depth research. Arya is also a trained singer, video editor, voice-over artist and loves photography.  

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