Rabies is a fatal disease which is caused by a virus and can affect all mammals, including humans. The virus is spread via saliva and is transmitted by bite wounds.
What the virus does:
After the virus has been transmitted by a bite wound, it replicates in the tissues around the bite wound and then enters the nerve endings in and around the wound. The virus then travels up the nerves and enters the central nervous system, thus rapidly spreading to the brain. Symptoms normally only appear at this terminal stage.
Unfortunately the virus will already have spread to the salivary glands before symptoms appear and an infected animal can thus spread Rabies before they start showing any symptoms.
Symptoms of Rabies:
The symptoms displayed by an infected animal can vary considerably.
The following symptoms are normally exhibited
- Changes in behavior and attitude
- An inability to swallow – these animals often look like they have a fear of water
- Fear of light
- Weakness and/or incoordination
- Excessive salivation
- Unusual friendliness in a wild animal
The diagnosis is based on strong suspicion due to clinical signs displayed. Due to the seriousness of the disease, if an animal is suspected of having Rabies, it will be euthanized. It is required by law that the state vet must be notified of a suspicious Rabies case. The state vet will have a test performed on the brain of the animal to confirm Rabies. This is done so that any in-contact humans can be found and treated as soon as possible.
Once clinical signs of Rabies have developed, there is no cure and death is inevitable.
There is no cure for Rabies in animals.
If a human gets bitten by a suspected Rabid animal, he/she should wash and disinfect the wound thoroughly. A doctor needs to be seen immediately. They will give an immunoglobulin injection and start with a series of vaccinations against Rabies to try to stop the disease from progressing.
The only way of preventing Rabies in pets is by vaccinations. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in South Africa.
The vaccinations are given to a puppy at 3 months of age and then again 1 to 12 months later. Booster vaccinations are then done every 1 – 3 years.
At WAHG we use a combination vaccination that contains Rabies. We thus revaccinate yearly.