The Rabies infection is caused by a virus, which spreads through the saliva of an animal that has been infected. Infection is spread most commonly through the bite of an animal, either to another animal or a human. In some rare cases, the saliva of an infected animal can get into the mucous membranes in the mouth or eyes or into an open wound and Rabies can be spread that way. Any mammal is capable of transmitting the Rabies virus, but some are much more common than others. The most common pets and farm animals to have and transmit Rabies include cats, dogs, cows, ferrets, horses, goats and rabbits. The most common wild animals to have and transmit Rabies include woodchucks, skunks, foxes, monkeys, raccoons, coyotes, beavers and bats.
Only a small number of people who have contracted Rabies have survived the infection. Anyone who might be exposed to Rabies should undergo a series of shots designed to prevent the Rabies infection from taking hold in the body. It is always safer to assume that the animal has Rabies if you cannot locate it after a bite. By the time Rabies symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. Anyone thought to have been bitten by a rabid animal should seek immediate medical help.
When someone has Rabies, the signs and symptoms do not appear until a few days before the victim will die from the disease. Some of the symptoms associated with Rabies include: partial paralysis, hallucinations, insomnia, fear of water, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, anxiety, confusion, fever, agitation and headache. If the animal is in custody, it can be tested for Rabies. If the animal cannot be found, the patient should be treated for Rabies anyway in an attempt to prevent the infection from taking hold of the body. Doctors can perform tissue tests and blood tests in order to diagnose Rabies, but the physician will more than likely begin the Rabies treatment before he or she diagnoses the disease.
Rabies shots administered by a physician will include a fast-acting shot known as Rabies immune globulin and a series of follow-up vaccines to help the body identify and fight the virus. This shot is designed to help prevent the virus from infecting the body. It is given near the area where the animal bite is, and is designed to be administered as quickly as possible after the bite. Most physicians will administer these vaccinations while working on diagnosing the Rabies so that the medication has time to start working without waiting unnecessarily for answers.