Rabies: What it is and What You Need to Know

There are many diseases which are associated with a truly global reach. While ailments such as malaria and cholera are often mentioned in the news, the fact of the matter is that rabies still presents a very real threat. Rabies occurs in over 150 countries and more than 99 per cent of all cases are the result of a dog bite (1). Let us take a closer look at this potentially serious condition as well as what steps need to be taken if you suspect that you may be at risk.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease primarily contracted after being in contact with an infected animal such as a dog (or in rare cases, a bat). It is commonly spread from animals to humans via a bite or a scratch. The virus itself is present within saliva, so those who are bitten by a dog suspected of having rabies are at a particular risk of infection. This virus then travels up the peripheral nerves to the brain and once here, it will cause swelling and in the majority of cases, death. One of the most concerning aspects In regards to this disease is that it can take up to three months for any symptoms to appear after the initial scratch or bite.

How to Protect Yourself Against Contracting Rabies

The most important step to take is to avoid contact with any animal that is suspected of having rabies. Common signs include abnormal behaviour, foaming at the mouth, an inability to swallow or partial paralysis. We should also mention that friendly animals can become violent if they are suffering from rabies, so even family pets should not be approached.

The most common way to prevent rabies is with a simple vaccine that has been in existence since 1967. Animal-based vaccines are also available. If you have been bitten by a suspected animal, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Doctors will normally administer a treatment known as human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) in addition to the standard vaccine over a 14-day period. However, this is generally only effective if the bite occurred less than ten days ago.

Many rabies bites can occur when taking a holiday, as specific countries might not follow the preventative rules associated with the western world. Therefore, if you are travelling to places where Rabies is prevalent, make sure you have travel insurance to financially protect yourself if you are bitten and need medical attention.

Also remember that not all travel insurance is the same and travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions is essential if you have any pre-existing medical conditions that may impact how professionals treat rabies. Without such a financial “umbrella”, you will likely be forced to pay potentially crippling out-of-pocket costs.

Steps to be Taken if You Suspect That You Have Contracted Rabies

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to rabies you must react quickly. after a recent scratch or bite, be sure to properly clean and disinfect the wound as soon as possible. Should there be the slightest chance that the animal could have rabies, go to the emergency room or consult with your personal physician as soon as possible. The doctor may also work in conjunction with local authorities in an attempt to find the suspected animal, as it can present a real risk to others. If you are bitten while on holiday, seek the help of nearby emergency services. They will likely act accordingly and provide you with the necessary preventative treatments.

Rabies is a serious illness and it must not be taken lightly. Whether you encounter an animal while travelling abroad or in your back garden, knowing the proper steps to take is absolutely essential.

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