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    Rabies Vaccination Post Dog Bite: Can Mortality Persist? Experts Weigh In

    Rabies treatment can occasionally fail, says expert. The virus can be highly fatal and impacts the central nervous system. All you want to know.

    Rabies, the highly fatal viral infection spreads through the saliva of the infected animal mostly through a bite from a stray dog, cat or bats. Rabies virus impacts the central nervous system of mammals, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Immediate treatment which includes a set of shots can help stop the virus from turning into rabies. After bitten by an infected stray dog or cat, rabies virus has to travel to the brain before it can cause symptoms. The incubation period may last from weeks to months. However, once the clinical symptoms appear, disease is almost always fatal.

    A 21-year-old woman succumbed to rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. She was from Maharashtra’s Kolhapur and died three days after she completed the anti-rabies vaccination course. The young woman had taken all the five doses of the anti-rabies vaccine after she was bitten.

    Can rabies treatment fail?

    “Rabies treatment might occasionally fail despite advancements in medical research. In one such instance, a 21-year-old woman did not respond well to rabies treatment. She was bitten by a dog, but even though she received PEP right after, she eventually got rabies and died from it. These incidents demonstrate the value of continued study and education about the prevention and treatment of rabies,” said Dr Mohan Kumar Singh, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine, Marengo Asia Hospital, Gurugram.

    What is rabies?

    “Rabies is a vaccine-preventable, zoonotic, viral disease affecting the central nervous system. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is nearly 100% fatal. In up to 99% of circumstances, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Yet, rabies can equally affect domestic and wild animals. It ranges to people and animals via saliva, usually through bites, scratches or direct contact with mucosa (e.g. eyes, mouth or open wounds),” says Dr Jitesh Kumar Chetiwal, Veterinary Surgeon.

    Rabies symptoms

    Rabies incubation period may last for weeks or even months. While the initial symptoms are mild and similar to any kind of viral infection, soon the disease progresses to brain and causes symptoms like anxiety, confusion, agitation, delirium, and hallucinations.

    “After a rabies exposure, the rabies virus has to travel to the brain before it can cause symptoms. This time between exposure and appearance of symptoms is the incubation period. It may last for weeks to months. The first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu, including weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache. There also may be discomfort, prickling, or an itching sensation at the site of the bite. These symptoms may last for days. Symptoms then progress to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behaviour, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia. The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is always nearly fatal, and treatment is typically supportive,” says Dr Chetiwal.

    Who can get rabies?

    “Humans and animals can both get rabies. While wild animals like bats, raccoons, and skunks are frequent carriers of the virus, domestic animals like dogs, cats, and livestock can also spread it to people. Although these situations are uncommon, organ transplants and contact with infected tissues can also occasionally spread rabies,” says Dr Singh.

    “If someone is bitten or scratched by an animal suspected of having rabies, they must get medical assistance immediately. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can stop the virus from spreading and turning into rabies. It consists of a series of rabies shots and, in certain situations, rabies immune globulin,” adds Dr Singh.

    How to prevent rabies

    It is important to vaccinate pets and be careful of wild animals. Prompt treatment after dog bite is important to prevent this disease.

    “The risk of rabies transmission can be decreased by taking preventive steps like vaccinating pets, avoiding contact with wild animals, and getting medical assistance as soon as an animal bites or scratches you. The prevention of rabies can be enhanced by educating the public about the disease’s symptoms and the value of vaccination. We can work together to create a future in which rabies poses no harm to the health of people or animals,” concludes Dr Singh.

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