Prevalence & Prevention of Rabies in the United States
Thousands Affected by Rabies
Did you know rabies kills more than 55,000 people worldwide every year? The World Healthy Organization report that revealed these numbers also mentioned that the cost associated with the disease is estimated at almost $584 million. The report also mentions that about 10 million people worldwide receive treatment, after being exposed to animals suspected of rabies.
Animals Most Often Rabid
According to the latest statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wild animals accounted for 92% of the rabies cases reported in the United States in 2013. Among the wildlife species, raccoons were found to be the most frequently reported to be rabid, closely followed by bats, skunks and foxes.
Domestic species, on the other hand, accounted for only 8% of the reported rabid cases in 2013, of which cats were found to be the most frequently reported rabid domestic species. Although the disease is not commonly fatal to human beings, the trauma of being exposed to it and the following vaccinations for prevention can cost more than just money. And the risk of exposure is high in states like New Jersey, where raccoons and skunks, mice and rats are all known to invade human habitats.
What is Rabies?
This is essentially a viral infection that spread through the saliva of an infected animal, either through the exposure of an open wound on a human being or animal to the saliva or through an animal bite that punctures the skin. The problem is that this virus affects the brain, which in turn is why it can be fatal.
According to MedicineNet.com, following an animal bite, the virus gets deposited in the subcutaneous tissue and muscle. The incubation period could last anywhere between one to three months, after which the virus travels through the peripheral nerves to the brain. This is also the route the virus takes to travel to other parts of the body.
Signs & Symptoms of Rabies
The early symptoms of rabies are quite similar to those of the flu, such as discomfort or general weakness, fever and/or headache, says a report by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These could last for several days, and could be accompanies by a prickly or itchy sensation at the location of the bite.
Over the course of a few days, the symptoms could progress to anxiety, agitation, confusion and cerebral dysfunction, says an article by GB Health Watch.
About 80% of the cases experience “furious rabies,” which is characterized by anxiety and confusion, encephalitis that could lead to hallucinations, confusion and even coma, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia or the fear of water, says a book named Principles and Practices of Infectious Diseases by John Eugene Bennett, Raphael Dolin and Martin J. Blaser. Another 20% of the cases experience “paralytic rabies,” where the infected person’s muscles gradually become paralyzed, leading ultimately to coma and death.
The acute period is usually about 2 to 10 days following exposure, during which prevention measures should be undertaken because once this period is over and the clinical signs of the virus emerge, the disease is almost always fatal, says an article by Patient.info.
Prevention of Rabies
The best course of action, therefore, is to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus. Make sure all pets are vaccinated regularly against rabies and any encroachment of wild animals in your home or yard is taken care of immediately. It is recommended not to come into immediate contact with wild animals, such as feeding or handling them. Doubtless, ferrets and raccoons can appear immensely cute and friendly, however, they could also be carriers of a deadly virus. In fact, experts at Heritage Pest Control say that humane pest control methods are best for animals such as squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, skunks and woodchucks, among others. These are not only eco-friendly pest control methods but also do not harm the animals. However, if someone you know has been exposed to the virus, they should immediately wash the wound well with soap and visit a physician and go through the entire course of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis shots to prevent the virus from spreading. Also, inform animal control regarding the animal.