Rabies is a disease that affects humans who have been bitten by an animal infected with the rabies virus, and is almost always deadly in infected humans who do not receive treatment. In order to become infected, you must have contact with an infected animal and exposure to their saliva or brain or nerve tissue via open wounds in your skin or mucous membranes such as your eyes or mouth. Infected animals often appear sick, vicious, or crazy, hence the expression “mad dog.” But infected animals may also seem confused, submissive, and even overly friendly or normal. The time from infection to development of symptoms is thirty to sixty days, but may range from fewer to ten days to several years. Symptoms may progress as follows:
Pain, tingling, or itching from the bite area
Flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and irritability
Seizures and coma
When extremely ill with Rabies, it's common to develop irregular contractions and spasms of the breathing muscles when around water, referred to as hydrophobia, or by feeling a little breeze, called aerophobia.
Even the smallest bite can transmit rabies, so all bites or scratches by a rabid animal call for administration of a rabies shot. Call your medical care provider even if you are not sure, in order to be examined and evaluated for possible treatment.
First Aid for Rabies
Call your doctor, local public health department, or hospital's emergency department immediately after any exposure to a rabid animal. Treatment may involve administration of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and injection of the first in a series of rabies vaccines, along with treatment for serious bites wounds and a tetanus booster. You can do the following yourself:
Wash the wound immediately with soap, water, and an antiseptic iodine solution.
Get the owner's name, address, and phone number if the animal is a pet so that the animal can be monitored.
Contact the local animal-control authorities for any wild animals or stray dogs or cats so they can attempt to catch the animal.
Don't attempt to capture or subdue an animal yourself.
If the animal was a bat, shut all windows in the room after everyone has been evacuated — if you can do this with no repeated exposure to the bat.