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Rabies Virus Definition
A potentially fatal illness resulting from infection with the rabies virus, which belongs to the Lyssavirus viral family. Rabies is very rare in people though a common infection in wild animals who can transmit the infection to unvaccinated pets such as dogs and cats or to people through bites.
Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and bats are reservoirs for the rabies virus; though infected with the rabies virus, these animals do not themselves become ill with rabies. Nearly any animal may acquire rabies infection as a result of contact with saliva or other secretions from an infected animal, usually a bite.
Symptoms of Rabies virus
In animals and humans the rabies virus infects the central nervous system. It travels via the peripheral nerves to the brain, where it replicates within brain neurons (NERVE cells). Symptoms of illness generally appear one to three months after exposure, though the incubation period may be as short as a few days or as long as several years. Once symptoms appear rabies is fatal. The illness of rabies is encephalitis.
Treatmet Rabies virus
The most effective treatment for rabies infection in people is postexposure prophylaxis, which consists of one injection of human rabies immunoglobulin and five injections of rabies vaccine administered at regular intervals after a bite from a potentially infected animal.
The vaccine injections are given in the upper arm and are similar in discomfort to receiving a tetanus shot. The course of postexposure prophylaxis covers 28 days and appears to be 100 percent effective. People at high risk for rabies exposure, such as those who work with animals, can receive rabies vaccinations to prevent infection, though they also need postexposure prophylaxis if bitten.
See also IMMUNIZATION.
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