Rabies, An Aggressive Killer

In mid-2017, there was a major outbreak of rabies-infected diseases in Malaysia, particularly In Sarawak. Rabies is a fatal viral disease that causes brain inflammation in human and other mammals. Sad but true, a total of 16 death cases have been reported so far while sole rabies survivors still remain in critical condition.

This post is intended as general knowledge sharing, as to step up our basic understanding about what rabies is, how can we do to prevent the risk of being infected, and what we should immediately do if bitten by Rabies infected animal.

Facts About Rabies

Rabies is caused by Rabies virus, which comes from type species of the Lyssavirus genus. The image below shows the electron micrograph of the rabies virus.

What Living Species Rabies Commonly Attack?

  • All warm-blooded species typically bats, birds, dogs, etc.
  • Human.

Two Ways Rabies Virus Can Be Transmitted

Through Bites

  • Rabies virus is usually present in the infected animal’s nerves or saliva. In most cases, the Rabies virus transmission in human usually, but not always, through a bite. Infected animals such as dog will act aggressively and even attack without provocation. This unusual behavior is an example of how the Rabies virus tries to modify its host’s characteristics in order to facilitate transmission to other hosts. Once the Rabies virus enters the host’s body through bites, the virus will travel towards the central nervous system. During this stage, the virus normally hard to detect within the host, and vaccination may still grant cell-mediated immunity to prevent symptomatic rabies. Once the infected person becomes symptomatic, the treatments given will almost ineffective thus chances of mortality is over than 99%.

Through Human To Human Transmission (Non-Bite)

  • Rabies can also infect a human through human to human transmission but it is extremely rare. One documented case involved human to human transmission, involved among eight transplant cornea recipients and among three solid organs recipients. Although bite and non-bites exposure inflicted by the infected person could transmit the diseases theoretically, there is no such case been reported as the infected person will be hospitalized, quarantined, and all necessary precautions have been taken. However, as the virus could present in sperm and vaginal secretions, spread through sex may also possible.

Two Ways Rabies Virus Will Not Be Transmitted

  • Casual contact (touching).
  • Contact with non-infectious fluid or tissues (urine, blood, feces).

Symptoms Of Person Infected With Rabies

  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, weak, or headache that last for days.
  • Itching sensation on the bitten area.
  • Feeling anxiety and confusions.
  • Abnormal behavior, hallucinations, insomnia.

Immediate Rabies Treatment

Extensive Wound Washing

  • Immediate washing and thorough flushing for a minimum of 15 minutes with soap and water, detergent or povidone iodine.

Immediate Administration Of Rabies Vaccine

  • To prevent infection caused by the rabies virus.

Immediate Administration Of Rabies Immunoglobulin

  • Rabies immunoglobulin contains human antibodies to fight against the rabies virus.

Prevention

Dog Vaccination

  • Eliminate rabies in dogs by vaccination.

Preventive Immunization

  • Since rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease, people with high risk of getting bitten by dog or laboratory workers who exposed to rabies virus research can prevent rabies infection through pre-exposure rabies vaccine. Kids at younger ages should also get vaccinated by rabies vaccine since they are also at high risk of getting bitten by stray dogs.

Increase Awareness Programs

  • People should be exposed to educational programs that teach them on rabies disease prevention and immediate care measure if bitten.

Final Thoughts

Due to the alarming Rabies death cases in Sarawak, the state government has already taken its big step ahead of other states in Malaysia, by putting efforts towards integrated rabies operation which involves various government agencies in Bau and Lundu districts since March 1st, 2019.

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