Rabies isn’t something you think about every day, but when the topic does arise, it can make you feel uneasy. You hear news stories about someone who has been bitten, sightings of strange wild animals in an otherwise normal town, or on the rare occasion, a person you know being given preventative treatment after an alarming incident that they won’t soon forget.
But what is rabies all about? Is it something to add to your list of worries or a topic that is unlikely to affect your life? Here are the basics, so you’re well-informed to make smart decisions and stay out of harm’s way when possible. Becoming another statistic is nothing to sneeze at — and rabies is serious. So, let’s get started!
First of all, what is rabies?
The name sounds familiar, but do you really know what rabies is? According to WebMD, only mammals (including humans) can get rabies, which is a virus that affects the central nervous system. It is spread by a bite or a scratch from an animal that is rabid, meaning infected with rabies.
Rabies is extremely rare in humans, as the most common carrier are bats, but the death rate among humans if they do contract the disease is alarming. WebMD reports that the mortality rate is 99.9%—this virus is literally a killer. Luckily for those of us in the U.S., the occurrence is few and far between, and most Americans who report a rabies incident are affected due to travels abroad.
If I get an animal bite or scratch, do I have rabies?
You won’t know if you’ve been infected right away, which is why it’s crucial to seek treatment immediately. The virus can lay low for up to three months. By then, it may be too late to do anything about it. Chances are you don’t have rabies, but even the slightest risk is reason enough to be proactive.
Whether it’s a bite or scratch from an animal like a raccoon, skunk, or a stray dog, the risk is the same when you don’t know the animal’s status. That’s why it’s so important for you and your fellow pet owners to vaccinate their pets. If they catch the virus and bite or scratch you, you could be next in line to harbor the disease!
If you’ve been scratched or bitten by an animal and you have any worries, our vybe staff is here to help make sure you’re on the right track!
Are the symptoms evident — what should I look out for?
As mentioned, symptoms won’t start from the moment you’ve been attacked. But as time passes, signs you may have contracted the virus will creep up. According to the Mayo Clinic, the first symptoms that most people experience are similar to the flu. From there, an array of ailments may follow, including fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, irritability, confusion, hyperactivity, excessive salivation, problems swallowing, hydrophobia (fear of water), insomnia, partial paralysis, and hallucinations.
You may have images in your head of animals (or humans) foaming at the mouth when they are rabid. This is a real sign, as the excessive salivation as noted in the symptoms is an indicator that the virus is present. That said, you may see no signs in an animal at all, which is why you must be treated before the virus attacks your body. If you’ve been bitten or scratched and are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
How can I protect myself?
While incidents out of our control can happen, most of the time our own precautionary measures are what keep us safe. If you follow the tips below, your chances of contracting the virus will diminish significantly.
- Vaccinate your pets.
- Watch your pets when they play outside.
- Small pets (rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, etc.) cannot be vaccinated. Don’t let them outside unless they’re in a protective cage.
- If you see a stray animal, report it to the proper authorities.
- Stay away from wild animals.
- If you suspect you have bats in your attic or on your property, call a professional to get them out
- There’s a rabies vaccine for humans. Most people never need it, but if you plan to visit an area where rabies is prevalent, this preventative measure could be potentially lifesaving.
Please be aware that we do not carry the rabies vaccine and if you have any concerns about rabies or think you’ve been exposed, the ER may be more appropriate for your care. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding animal bites or scratches, please feel free to call into our office or to stop by your local vybe urgent care.