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About Rabies

What is Rabies?

Rabies is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system of any warm-blooded animal.

It is caused by a virus that is carried in the saliva of infected warm-blooded mammals.

In North America, raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks are significant wildlife species that spread the disease.

Rabies almost always results in the death of the animal and without treatment the biting victim.

How is Rabies Transmitted?

The rabies virus is concentrated in the saliva, mucus membranes and central nervous tissue of a rabid animal.

Humans can contract rabies by being exposed to the saliva of an infected animal. Usually, the person is bitten or scratched allowing the virus to enter the broken skin.

The virus then moves into the nervous system. It may also enter through an open cut or mucus membrane (eyes, nose, and mouth).

What Are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Symptoms of Rabies in Dogs and Cats include:

  • changes in their usual behaviour: more quiet or depressed or unusually friendly when normally timid (dumb rabies) or more aggressive toward people, animals, objects, even its own body (furious rabies)
  • difficulty eating or drinking or loss of appetite
  • excessive drooling
  • sensitivity to touch, sound or light
  • difficulty walking
  • becoming partially or completely paralyzed (unable to move)
  • For more information on pets and rabies visit this website.

Symptoms of Rabies in People include:

  • A sense of uneasiness and excitability with headache, fever, feeling unwell and pain at the site of the bite
  • As the disease progresses hypertension and difficulty swallowing, paralysis followed by coma and death

What is Post Exposure Treatment?

All people who have knowingly been exposed to rabies must be treated immediately.

Post exposure treatment is available through the health unit following a risk assessment of the individuals exposure, their health care provider can order the treatment through the Health Unit.

The treatment includes injecting Rabies Immune Globulin immediately after the bite along with the first dose of rabies vaccine.

The remaining doses of vaccine are injected on day 3, day 7 and day 14.

The vaccine is an effective treatment against rabies when the series is completed as required.

The vaccine is safe for pregnant women and children and is an effective treatment against rabies.

Are There Any Adverse Reactions to the Vaccine?

Most people do not have any reactions to the vaccine. Call your doctor if any of these symptoms happen within three weeks after being vaccinated:

  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • High fever
  • Convulsions
  • Any other serious health problem.

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