Learn About Rabies

What is the definition of Rabies?

Rabies is a deadly viral infection that is mainly spread by infected animals.

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What are the alternative names for Rabies?

Hydrophobia; Animal bite - rabies; Dog bite - rabies; Bat bite - rabies; Raccoon bites - rabies

What are the causes of Rabies?

The infection is caused by rabies virus. Rabies is spread by infected saliva that enters the body through a bite or broken skin. The virus travels from the wound to the brain, where it causes swelling or inflammation. This inflammation leads to symptoms of the disease. Most rabies deaths occur in children.

In the past, human rabies cases in the United States usually resulted from a dog bite. Recently, more cases of human rabies have been linked to bats and raccoons. Dog bites are a common cause of rabies in developing countries, especially Asia and Africa. There have been no reports of rabies caused by dog bites in the United States for a number of years due to widespread animal vaccination.

Other wild animals that can spread the rabies virus include:

  • Foxes
  • Skunks

In rare cases, rabies has been transmitted without an actual bite. This type of infection is believed to be caused by infected saliva that has gotten into the air, usually in bat caves.

What are the symptoms of Rabies?

The time between infection and when you get sick ranges from 10 days to 7 years. This time period is called the incubation period. The average incubation period is 3 to 12 weeks.

Fear of water (hydrophobia) is the most common symptom. Other symptoms may include:

  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Bite site is very sensitive
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of feeling in an area of the body
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Low-grade fever (102°F or 38.8°C, or lower) with headache
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Pain at the site of the bite
  • Restlessness
  • Swallowing difficulty (drinking causes spasms of the voice box)
  • Hallucinations
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What are the current treatments for Rabies?

The aim of the treatment is to relieve the symptoms of the bite wound and assess risk of rabies infection. Clean the wound well with soap and water and seek professional medical help. You will need a provider to clean the wound and remove any foreign objects. Most of the time, stitches should not be used for animal bite wounds.

If there is any risk of rabies, you will be given a series of a preventive vaccine. The vaccine is generally given in 5 doses over 28 days. Antibiotics have no effect on the rabies virus.

Most people also receive a treatment called human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG). This treatment is given the day the bite occurred.

Call your provider right away after an animal bite or after being exposed to animals such as bats, foxes, and skunks. They may carry rabies.

  • Call even when no bite took place.
  • Immunization and treatment for possible rabies are recommended for at least up to 14 days after exposure or a bite.

There is no known treatment for people with symptoms of a rabies infection, but there have been a few reports of people surviving with experimental treatments.

Who are the top Rabies Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

National Institute Of Mental Health And Neurosciences

Bengaluru, KA, IN 

Reeta Mani is in Bengaluru, India. Mani is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Rabies. She is also highly rated in 2 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Rabies, Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis, and Chikungunya.

Highly rated in

Wallenberg Neuroscience Center, Lund University

Lund, M, SE 

Malin Parmar is in Lund, Sweden. Parmar is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Rabies. They are also highly rated in 3 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Rabies, Parkinson's Disease, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Huntington Disease.

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Highly rated in

University Of Liverpool

Faculty Of Health And Life Sciences 
Liverpool, ENG, GB 

Anthony Fooks is in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Fooks is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Rabies. He is also highly rated in 11 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Rabies, Arbovirosis, Encephalitis, and West Nile Virus Infection.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Rabies?

It is possible to prevent rabies if you get the vaccine soon after the bite. To date, no one in the United States has developed rabies when they were given the vaccine promptly and appropriately.

Once the symptoms appear, the person rarely survives the disease, even with treatment. Death from respiratory failure usually occurs within 7 days after symptoms start.

What are the possible complications of Rabies?

Rabies is a life-threatening infection. Left untreated, rabies can lead to coma and death.

In rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine.

When should I contact a medical professional for Rabies?

Go to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number if an animal bites you.

How do I prevent Rabies?

To help prevent rabies:

  • Avoid contact with animals you don't know.
  • Get vaccinated if you work in a high-risk occupation or travel to countries with a high rate of rabies.
  • Make sure your pets receive the proper immunizations. Ask your veterinarian.
  • Make sure that your pet does not come in contact with any wild animals.
  • Follow quarantine regulations on importing dogs and other mammals in disease-free countries.
Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system
What are the latest Rabies Clinical Trials?
A Phase 3, Open-label, Multicenter Study to Evaluate Long-term Immunogenicity and Boostability of Immune Responses in Adults Who Received Different Primary Vaccination Regimens of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis With Purified Chick-Embryo Cell Rabies Vaccine Administered Concomitantly or Separately From a Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine.
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A Double-blind Randomized, Controlled, Non-inferiority Trial to Evaluate the Immunogenicity and Safety of New Rabies Vaccine 'Rabix-VC' on Bangladeshi Healthy Adults
What are the Latest Advances for Rabies?
Innate Immune Signaling and Role of Glial Cells in Herpes Simplex Virus- and Rabies Virus-Induced Encephalitis.
A clinical, aetiological, and public health perspective on central nervous system infections in Bolivia, 2017-2018.
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Current characteristics of animal rabies cases in Thailand and relevant risk factors identified by a spatial modeling approach.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : October 25, 2020
Published By : Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Bullard-Berent J. Rabies. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 123.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Rabies. www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html. Updated September 25, 2020. Accessed December 2, 2020.

Williams B, Rupprecht CE, Bleck TP. Rabies (rhabdoviruses). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 163.