In the U.S., we are lucky to have very few cases of rabies in humans. Through vaccination and education, most domesticated animals and humans are immune to this deadly disease. However, each year there still are a few cases, and in other parts of the world, the disease is killing tens of thousands every year.
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a Latin term that means madness, which fits this disease and its symptoms. Rabies is a virus that attacks warm-blooded animals and can be spread through the saliva and blood. Almost all rabies virus infections begin with a bite from an infected animal, transferring the virus from the animal’s saliva into the victim through the skin.
Once the virus has been transmitted, it makes its way slowly along the peripheral nerves to the central nervous system and eventually to the brain. This incubation period can last as few as two days and up to 12 weeks or longer. Once the virus infects the central nervous system, symptoms will begin to show and there is a quick progression in the disease. Once symptoms have started, the disease is almost always fatal within 12 days, over 99% of the time.
There are three stages of the disease. The first stage is fever, headaches and possible behavioral changes. In stage two, the infected person or animal becomes violent and with uncontrolled movements. They will experience pain and partial paralysis. The third and last stage will have periods of mania and more paralysis, causing drooling and loss of control of facial and throat muscles. Victims often then lapse into a coma and then die from respiratory failure.
Treatment for people who have contracted rabies from dog bites
For rabies, there is treatment but it must be performed before the person begins to have symptoms, basically before the virus reaches the central nervous system. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP. If a person has been bit or exposed to rabies, the wound should be thoroughly washed with soap and water. They then would receive a series of injections. The victim would receive 1 dose of human rabies immunoglobulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a two-week period. If started right away, PEP is 100% effective in killing the rabies virus.
Realistically, how likely is it to contract rabies from a dog bite?
In the U.S., there are only 1-2 human rabies cases per year, usually from bites from infected bats or other small animals where the bite was not noticed and therefore, not treated. In Asia and Africa, there are an estimated 55,000 deaths per year from rabies. India is the country leading the world with about 20,000 deaths from rabies per year, followed by Vietnam and Thailand.
Prevention of rabies starts with dog vaccinations
In the U.S. and other nations such as the UK, Australia and Japan, rabies has been all but eliminated in domestic animals. The use of vaccines in humans and animals, including baiting wild animals and feeding them oral vaccines, has been effective in reducing the amount of infected animals. Rabies is generally preventable when national resources are used to eradicate the disease. Unfortunately, until these tactics are used in all countries, there will continue to be high levels of deaths each year from this deadly virus.
Chicago dog bite attorneys who appreciate the dangers of rabies and other injuries related to canine attacks in Illinois
The popularity of ‘home breeding’ of dogs has greatly increased the liklihood that a person may contract rabies or another type of infection from a dog bite. While nothing can undo the damage related to a dog attack, Illinois law requires the owner of an animal to pay for all damages and medical care necessitated by an attack. Dog bite attorneys at Chicago Injury Center have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for dog bite victims across the Midwest. If you or your child was injured by a canine, we invite you to talk with our team about your legal rights.