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Mind and Body: Rabies infects 60,000 annually

By Jessica Dominguez

Clark County Health Department Health Environmentalist

World Rabies Day is just around the corner.

Saturday is the 12th global observance of rabies awareness. World Rabies Day was started in an effort to raise awareness and enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide.

Rabies is a viral infection of the brain that claims nearly 60,000 lives a year around the world, about one every nine minutes.

Rabies begins with flu-like symptoms sometimes not appearing until four weeks after someone has become infected.

By this time, the infection is almost always lethal. As the disease progresses, patients begin to hallucinate, have seizures, they may bleed from or foam at the mouth and they often develop aversions to light, water or mirrors.

Rabid humans are often aggressive and can bite others trying to offer help. (The myth of vampires is believed to have started during a 1720s rabies epidemic in Hungary.)

Luckily, rabies is completely preventable. Get your pets vaccinated for rabies and keep their vaccinations up to date.

If you have been in contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you have been scratched or bitten, speak with your healthcare provider.

Rabies is passed from saliva to blood, so if you have been hurt by an animal, wash any wound with soap and water and plan to see your doctor.

It is important to note some animals like bats have teeth so small that even if you are bitten you may not notice. Bat teeth leave marks that disappear quickly.

If you find a bat in your home, call the health department and/or your physician.

Decisions regarding rabies should not be delayed. Do not wait to contact a medical professional.

Visit your doctor for attention for any trauma due to an animal attack before considering your need for rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccination, also known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), consists of one dose of human rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine on days three, seven and 14 thereafter.

The first dose should be administered as soon as possible after exposure.

Rabies vaccines are given in the arm just like a flu or tetanus shot.

Whether or not you will need rabies vaccination will depend on your exposure, the type of animal and whether the animal is available for testing.

World Rabies Day is a day to raise awareness and to bring light to many of the programs that are involved including the United States Department of Agriculture, the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have pledged to eliminate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

The theme for World Rabies Day 2019 is “Rabies: Vaccinate to Eliminate.”

Rabies is 100 percent preventable through regular vaccination and prompt medical care.