Rabies is a viral disease which is prevalent in Pakistan amongst a few other countries and is responsible for causing thousands of deaths annually. It is currently enlisted as the most neglected diseases, with the frequency of dog bites on a constant rise.
In a study, it was estimated that 3.3 billion live with the virus around the world and approximately 59,000 people lose their lives on an annual basis. On an average 97,000 people are diagnosed with rabies infection in the basic health units spread across the country. The patients visiting the secondary or tertiary care centers or who go unreported are not included in this statistics.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease which is transferred from the saliva or tissues of infected individuals via bites or scratches. It is a form of zoonotic disease and therefore can be transmitted between species. Dogs are the primary source of transferring the virus to humans and causing death.
Furthermore, the virus can also be transmitted by the contact of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth with the infected saliva, inhalation of aerosolized saliva (although rare) and through the organ transplantation involving cornea or any internal organ.
Moreover, if the infected animal is butchered and eaten raw or hasn’t been thoroughly cooked leads to the transmission of disease in minority of the cases. The infectious nervous tissue can contaminate the part of the skin or tissue being used for eating or cooking.
The rabies virus directly attacks the nervous system inside the mammals and has 99% fatality rate. Once the symptoms appear, the chances of survival are close to impossible because the virus disrupts the neurological bio-system and causes inflammation within the brain.
Symptoms of Rabies
The incubation period for the rabies virus is anywhere between 4 to 12 weeks after the person has been bitten. The initial symptoms of the infection may include any from the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling in the extremities
- Burning at the site of animal bite
The effect of the virus on the body’s neurological system can further lead to the development of two forms of diseases, Furious Rabies or Paralytic Rabies.
People who develop this form of the disease go further to develop the following symptoms:
- Erratic behavior
- Extreme Salivation
- Problems gulping or swallowing
30% cases of the rabies are the instances of paralytic rabies where patients who possess the virus slowly slip into paralysis, coma and then die.
Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
Blood or tissue sample is then taken to ascertain whether the infection has been contracted by the individual.
Patients who report having been bitten by animal and have been confirmed with the disease through the tests are vaccinated using a fast-shot (rabies immune globulin) in order to contain the spread of the infection. Furthermore, the doctors continue to wash the infected area with soap and water, detergent or iodine (also known as pyoidine) for 15 minutes for disinfecting it.
However, the rabies vaccines are continued to be administered over a period of 14 days for 5 more shots (post-exposure prophylaxis).
The prevention of rabies infection can be enacted by following some key and easy points including:
- Vaccinating your pets and yourself.
- Getting a rabies vaccination before traveling to Africa or other regions in Asia.
- Reporting stray animals to the animal control.
- Avoiding contact with stray or wild animals.
Together we can work to create awareness about the various health disorders and viruses affecting the Pakistani society. This will play a substantial role in decreasing the rate of mortality of adults and children due to preventable diseases and infections by a considerable margin.
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