The early symptoms of rabies in humans include irritability, itching at the infection site, and fever. As the disease progresses, muscle spasms in the throat and respiratory tract affect breathing, and a person may have difficulty swallowing, the combination of which can produce the well-known symptom of foaming at the mouth. Following these signs, hallucinations, convulsions, seizures, paralysis, and eventually death occurs. Since the incubation for rabies can take months, anyone who is bitten by a possibly rabid animal should seek healthcare assistance immediately whether symptoms are present or not.
Rabies symptoms may not show up for months, but when they do, a person is likely to feel like he or she has the flu. A headache, fever, and weakness are generally the first sign of the disease progressing. The place that was bitten is also generally sore, itchy, and may have a prickly feeling. After a few days more serious signs will likely start to occur.
As the disease progresses, an infected person will become confused, agitated, or extremely anxious. He or she will generally start foaming at the mouth, become hyperactive, and become afraid of water. Some people also become afraid of flying. Hallucinations and an inability to sleep are other signs; and in some cases, the affected person's muscles become paralyzed and coma occurs. People with this infection typically die of heart failure.
Immediately after being bitten, a person should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. If it's possible to safely contain the animal that's suspected of having rabies, then the person should do this, but if not, then he or she should try to remember as much about the animal as possible and call authorities to catch it. After washing the wound, the person should see a healthcare professional immediately to see if Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is needed. This usually consists of a series of shots that are administered in the arm. It is important to get medical attention promptly, since the disease becomes incurable once the symptoms start to develop.
Sources of Rabies
Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the central nervous system in warm-blooded animals. It can be transmitted to humans when an infected animal's saliva comes into contact with broken skin, such as with a bite or scratch. Dogs are responsible for the majority of infections globally, but in countries that vaccinate pets against the virus, or that are generally rabies-free, wild animals like raccoons, bats and foxes tend to be the source of infection. Animals with rabies tend to act strangely or confused, may foam at the mouth, and may change its sleeping habits, going out in the day instead of at night.
In cases where someone is bitten by a domesticated animal — a dog, cat, or ferret — and that animal can be caught by authorities, it can be quarantined if it is not known if the animal has been vaccinated. The animal will be held for 10 days to see if it exhibits any rabies symptoms. If not, the person who was bitten will not need to be given treatment for the virus. Since it typically takes at least 14 days before any symptoms develop in humans, there is usually little or no danger in waiting.