DefinitionRabies is an infection that affects the brain and spine. Rabies is almost always fatal unless treated before symptoms appear.
|The Nervous System|
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CausesRabies is caused by a virus. It is found in infected, warm-blooded animals. Animals that commonly carry the virus include:
Risk FactorsThe only risk factor is contact with an infected animal.In most parts of the United States, any contact with a bat may be considered a rabies risk factor. Seek medical advice if you find a bat anywhere inside your home.
SymptomsSymptoms often start within 3-7 weeks. In some cases, the virus can incubate up to 1 or more years. Death usually occurs within a week after symptoms appear.Symptoms in humans may include:
- Pain, tingling, or itching at the site of the bite wound or other site of viral entry
- Stiff muscles
- Increased production of thick saliva
- Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, fatigue, nausea
- Painful spasms and contractions of the throat when exposed to water
- Erratic, excited, or bizarre behavior
DiagnosisIf you think you have been exposed to rabies, see a doctor or contact a public health official right away.If the animal is available and appears well, it will be kept under observation to monitor its health. If no symptoms develop, you are not at risk for rabies. If the animal is sick or dead, it may be examined for the presence of the virus. In the meantime, you may be advised to begin treatment.If the animal is unavailable, treatment may be given. The decision to give treatment maybe based on factors such as:
- Animal's species
- Where the encounter took place
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