What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly illness caused by a Lyssavirus that spreads to humans through close contact with the saliva of an infected animal, most often from licks, bites or scratches.
How is it transmitted?
Rabies can be carried in any warm-blooded animal (domestic or wild). It is spread from an infected animal when the virus from its saliva enters the victim's nervous system through a bite, scratch, or lick on open skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth).
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms generally take 1 to 3 months to appear, but this may vary considerably from several days to several years.
Early symptoms are flu-like, including headache, feeling generally unwell, fever, and fatigue. There may by discomfort or pain including tingling or numbness at the exposure site (i.e. bite).
Once symptoms appear, the disease progresses quickly as the central nervous system is attacked. The illness generally presents in one of two ways:
"Furious rabies" is more common, and is characterized by anxiety, confusion, hyperactivity, hallucinations, fear of water (hydrophobia) and seizures.
"Dumb rabies" occurs in approximately 30 % of patients and presents with weakness and paralysis.
Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal. In both "furious" and "dumb" rabies, death usually occurs within seven to fourteen days due to breathing failure caused by paralysis of the respiratory system.
Where is Rabies a concern?
Rabies occurs worldwide except in Antarctica.
Most human deaths in Asia and Africa and the disease is mainly transmitted by dogs.
There is a high risk of rabies in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Bat rabies has recently re-emerged and is a concern is Australia and Western Europe. Bats are the source of most human rabies cases in North America.
Source: © All Rights Reserved. Travel Health: Rabies. Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014. Reproduced with permission from the Minister of Health, 2014.