Devil Brigade PATIENT EDUCATION: LEARNING ABOUT RABIES TOPIC OVERVIEW America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
Devil Brigade WHAT IS RABIES?•Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that can affect thecentral nervous system (brain and spinal cord) ofany kind of mammal, including humans.•Animals that are infected with rabies - rabid animals - canspread the disease through their saliva or brain matter.•People who get rabies are almost always exposed from abite from a rabid animal. Because of widespread animalvaccination programs, people in the United States rarelyget rabies; it is more common in developing nations. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
WHAT CAUSES RABIES? Devil Brigade• Rabies is caused by a virus that is usually spreadthrough contact with an infected animals saliva.•In the United States, the rabies virus is found almostexclusively in wildlife.•Bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes are the mostcommon hosts of rabies. Small mammals such as mice orsquirrels almost never have rabies. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
WHAT CAUSES RABIES (cont)? Devil Brigade•There is no known case that they have spread it tohumans. Larger rodents, such as woodchucks, are morelikely to be rabid.•The animals most likely to be infected with the rabiesvirus vary by region, although bats are becoming a mainsource of infection among humans in many areas of theU.S. and Canada.1•People in Asia, Latin America, Africa and many othercountries are most likely to get rabies from dog bites. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
WHAT CAUSES RABIES (cont)? Devil Brigade•Report all animal bites, especially those from wildlife, toyour local health department.•Occasionally, the rabies virus can spread to pets, such asdogs, cats, and domestic ferrets. However, household petsrarely get rabies, due to successful vaccination programs.•In extremely rare situations, a person can get rabieswithout being bitten by a rabid animal (nonbite exposure).•Humans have acquired rabies by handling a rabid animalor by inhaling airborne virus in places where it exists inhigh quantities, such as caves filled with bats. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? Devil Brigade•Signs of rabies in animals may include having excessivesaliva or sometimes foaming at the mouth, paralysis, orbehavioral changes in your pet (such as shyness when thepet was friendly) or no fear of humans in a wild animal.•Rabies infection in humans begins with symptoms suchas fever, cough, or sore throat followed in several days bymore serious and rapidly progressing symptoms such asrestlessness, hallucinations, and seizures. The final stageis coma and death. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS (cont)? Devil Brigade•The incubation period—the time from exposure to therabies virus until symptoms appear—is usually 4 to 6weeks. In rare cases, the incubation period can last fromseveral days to more than a year after exposure to thevirus.•If you are concerned that you may have been exposed tothe rabies virus, it is important to seek medical attentionbefore symptoms develop.•Rabies is nearly always fatal, but shots given beforesymptoms appear can help prevent the disease. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
HOW IS RABIES DIAGNOSED? Devil Brigade•Rabies in humans can be difficult to diagnose. Aftersymptoms start, tests that can be done include:1.Direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test. This common,rapid test detects the rabies virus protein. DFA testing isdone by taking a sample of tissue from the potentiallyaffected area.2. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. This test findsthe genetic material (DNA) of the rabies virus proteins. PCR testing is very accurate and can be done on saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, or tissue. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
HOW IS RABIES DIAGNOSED (cont)? Devil Brigade•To find out if a person was exposed to the rabies virus,the animal must be tested.•Diagnosis in animals also is difficult.•Animals that show signs of abnormal behavior but cantbe tested often are assumed to be rabid. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
HOW IS RABIES DIAGNOSED (cont)? Devil Brigade•The risk that an animal is infected with the rabies virus isbased on:1.The type of animal. Some animals are more likely to carry rabies thanothers. Bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes are commoncarriers of the rabies virus.2.The behavior of the animal. Examples include excessive drooling oraggression, a wild animal being unafraid of humans, or an animal thatis usually active at night being active in the daytime instead.3.Risk for rabies in a specific geographic area. For more information,contact your local health department.4.The date of the animals last rabies vaccination. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
CAN RABIES BE TREATED? Devil Brigade•After rabies symptoms appear, the disease progressesquickly, and there is no cure. It is important to getmedical care before symptoms occur so that there is lesschance of serious damage from the rabies virus.• Medical care for rabies includes:• Thorough cleansing of the area of exposure (bite,scratch, or open sore).• Vaccines and immune globulin. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
CAN RABIES BE TREATED (cont)? Devil Brigade•Any animal bite or area of exposure should be washedwith soap and water immediately.•Your doctor and local health department can help you findout if you have been infected with the rabies virus.•Rabies vaccinations will be given right away if yourchance of getting rabies is high. America’s First Brigade! UNCLASSIFIED
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