What do you need to know about Rabies?

Rabies is a dangerous disease that can be fatal if not treated early. It is a viral disease that usually spread through the infected animals if they bite or scratch. It is fatal without treatment in the early stages but can be curable if the infected person seeks immediate medical treatment.

Rabies virus is an RNA virus that belongs to the rhabdovirus family. The virus affects by:

  • Migrating to the Brain by Entering the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System)
  • Replicating into the Muscle Tissues that help it from the immune system, then follow the neuromuscular junctions and enter the nervous system.

In the Brain, The virus produces acute inflammation, Coma, and death. According to WHO, 99% of Rabies cases usually spread from domestic dog bites, scratches, or mostly their saliva.

It is noted that Rabies lyssavirus may be inactive in its host body and be active after a long time.

Types of Rabbies include:

  • Furious rabies causing Hyperactivity and Hallucinations
  • Paralytic rabies that causes paralysis and coma


Transmission to humans is majorly followed by rabid dogs due to deep bites or scratches. Rabid Dogs cases account for up to 99% of the cases, according to WHO.

Animals that majorly spread rabies may include:

  • Bats
  • Foxes
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Jackals
  • Mongooses

One other method for transmission is if the infected saliva gets in contact with human fresh skin wounds or human mucosa. Rabies due to inhalation is possible but is seen very rarely. Human-to-Human transmission is possible but never confirmed.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Stages of Rabies 1 - Pharmakon Society

The virus incubation period is usually for about 2-3months but can last up to a year, this depends on the site of entry. Initial Symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms: Headache, Fever, and Weakness
  • Itching and burning sensation on the site of Bite
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and Vomiting

As the virus migrates to the CNS (Central Nervous System), severe inflammation of the spinal cord and brain develops. Depending upon the type of rabies:

For Furious type, the symptoms are:

  • Hydrophobia
  • Excitable Behaviour
  • Aerophobia

For Paralytic type:

  • Paralyzed muscles
  • Coma

After reaching the final stage of Coma, most people die within 3 days.


Before the onset of the disease or if the doctors don’t find any bite marks then it is very difficult to detect the virus. Specific signs like hydrophobia, aerophobia, or unusual behavior may help doctors to identify the disease.

A single test is not enough to find the virus, Healthcare professionals have to perform multiple tests in order to conclude rabies. Usually, when doctors could identify that the virus is present, it is often too late.


If any person has a scratch or bites from an infected animal, or if the animal licks an open or fresh skin wound, the person should wash it immediately with povidone-iodine or soapy water or detergent for 15 minutes. This will minimize the risk of rabies by killing the virus from entering the body.

Before the serious symptoms begin, the individual should seek healthcare immediately and take a series of shots to get vaccinated. It is safe to assume the animal is infected with the virus to minimize the risk.

There are very few people who survived rabies after the symptoms begin, and there is no effective treatment for that.

Rabies Vaccine

This vaccine contains a harmless inactivated rabies virus that helps our body to produce antibodies that remain in the body to protect us from any future viral attack.

Doctors do not offer this vaccine at regular intervals. They save it for those at a high risk of rabies exposure like working staff. Others can take the vaccine after they get an animal bite, this is called PEP (Post-Exposure-Prophylaxis).

Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

It is an immediate treatment for the individual that has exposure to rabies due to an animal bite, by preventing the virus from entering the body.

It includes:

  • Extensive washing and immediately available treatment to the area of the bite
  • Rabies vaccine according to WHO standards
  • Administration of RIG (Rabies Immunoglobulin), if indicated.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis for rabies


  • Elimination of Rabies in Dogs: Vaccines are available for infected animals. Vaccinated Pets are the safest and most-effective strategy for preventing the disease.
  • Awareness: Educating adults and children on Dog behavior and Rabbies vaccination programs can reduce the chances of more cases and also provide prevention. Education includes treating dog bites, the responsibilities of pet owners, and immediate care procedures.
  • Immunization: Vaccinated is the most important factor for reducing rabies. For workers dealing with live viruses and rabies-related viruses, Pre-exposure immunization is recommended. This immunization is also recommended for people living in high-exposure viral areas and outdoor travelers.

Important FAQs regarding Rabies

Ques.1 Is rabies a 100% mortality rate?

According to CDC, it depends on the variant or animal reservoir and is fatal in over 99% of cases. Therefore it is one of the world’s most deadly diseases. Within 1-2 weeks the disease is fatal in humans and animals.

Ques.2 Which country is a rabies-free country?

Some rabies-free countries are New Zealand, America Samoa, Aruba, Australia, Singapore, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, England, etc.

Ques.3 Which countries still have rabies?

The disease is found particularly in Central and South America, Asia, and Africa.

Ques.4 Is Japan rabies free?

According to NCBI, Japan is free from it since the 1950s.

Ques.5 Why can’t we cure rabies?

Once the virus reaches the Brain, it infects the CNS (Central Nervous System) which can be fatal. There is no treatment if the virus reaches the brain.

Ques.6 Can the immune system fight rabies?

The Human immune system can fight the virus if given enough time and if the virus does not reach the brain.

Ques.7 What animal causes rabies the most?

Bats are the most virus-spreading species. Others are Raccoons, Skunks, and foxes.

Ques.8 How long does a rabies vaccine last?

Depending on the vaccine, the protection duration can be six months to two years.

Ques.9 Are humans with rabies violent?

Infected Humans are often seen with aggressive nature.

Ques.10 What is death from rabies-like?

The causes can be:
-Blockage of airways
-Exhaustion or widespread paralysis

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