What is rabies?
Rabies is a disease caused by an acute virual infection.
It results in spasms, fear of water, madness, paralysis and usually death.
Symptoms usually start 2-8 weeks after being bitten or scratched by an animal carrying the rabies virus. However, symptoms may occur months or even years after a bite from an infected animal. The virus passes through the cut skin and gradually travels into the nervous system.
The UK is currently rabies-free due to strict quarantine regulations. However it is still present in most of the world. Foxes are the main carriers of the disease but dogs, cats, cattle, horses, badgers, deer, raccoons, bats and skunks can be affected. A bite from any of these animals from any country outside the UK should be taken very seriously.
What are the signs and symptoms?
It can take anything from one week to more than a year for symptoms of rabies to appear after infection, although the average time is four to eight weeks (known as incubation period).
If the infection hasn't been treated within the incubation period following symptoms can occur:
- pain or tingling at site of bite
- loss of appetite
There are two ways in which rabies can develop which can lead to furious rabies or dumb rabies:
Symptoms of furious rabies:
- increased anxiety and jumpiness
- neck stiffness
- sometimes seizures/fits
- pupils may appear dilated
- increased sensitivity to sound, light and temperature
Within one week:
- deranged behaviour - spitting, biting, delerium
- delusions and hallucinations
Symptoms of dumb rabies (less common):
- muscle paralysis spread across body leading to heart and lung failure
- total paralysis