95% of human rabies deaths occur in Asia and Africa

accreditation
Dogs are the main host and transmitter of the rabies virus.
Dogs are the main host and transmitter of the rabies virus.

Rabies is a fatal viral encephalitis (brain inflammation) that occurs in wild and domesticated mammals. This virus may also occur in humans.

Rabies is transmitted to humans through the bite saliva or scratches from of an infected cat or dog – domesticated or wild.

The South African National Travel Health Network (SaNTHNet) reports that rabies is present on all continents except Antarctica, and that 95% of human deaths from rabies is Asia and Africa.

Dogs are the main carrier and transmitter of the rabies virus. They are also the source of infection in around 50 000 annual human rabies deaths in Asia and Africa according to SaNTHNet.

Know the signs

The gestation period of rabies in humans is around one to three months but may vary from one week to one year.

SaNTHNet lists the symptoms of rabies as follows;

Initial symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain or unusual tingling, pricking or burning sensation (paraethesia) at the wound site

Progressed symptoms:

  • Virus spreads through the central nervous system (CNS)
  • Fatal brain inflammation of the spinal cord and brain occurs

Types of rabies

Two types of rabies may develop after the progressed symptoms of the virus.

Furious rabies encompasses bouts of hyperactivity, excited behaviour, hydrophobia (extreme or irrational fear of water), and sometimes aerophobia (extreme or irrational fear of flying). The person will most likely die of cardiac arrest after a few days.

The second type of rabies, paralytic rabies, accounts for around 30% of the total reported cases of rabies in humans.

This type of rabies often lives longer in the human body and only gradually brings about death.

The muscles of the infected person will gradually become paralysed from the wound site. The patient will slowly go into a coma, and eventual death.

Who is at risk?

Poor and vulnerable populations are at great risk for contracting rabies. According to the SaNTHNet rabies occurs mainly in remote and rural communities who do not have access to treatment and preventative measures such as vaccinations.

Exposure to rabid dogs still account for over 90% of worldwide human exposures to the rabies virus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Treatment

The rabies virus can often be removed at the side of the infection by physical or chemical means, according to SaNTHNet. Local treatment is important for all bites and scratches. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended, depending on the type of contact with the infected animal.

But once the symptoms of rabies are present, it is nearly always deadly.

The rabies vaccine can prevent rabies. It is made from the killed rabies virus and is given to people who are at high risk.

CDC recommends that if you have been exposed to the rabies virus, you should be vaccinated as soon as possible regardless of any other illnesses that are present.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2307 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
48% - 9929 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 7673 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 763 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.66
-1.7%
Rand - Pound
20.08
-1.2%
Rand - Euro
16.97
-1.7%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,766.04
-0.5%
Silver
19.86
-1.4%
Palladium
2,140.50
-0.9%
Platinum
928.50
-1.0%
Brent Crude
92.34
-3.0%
Top 40
64,168
-0.9%
All Share
70,967
-0.8%
Resource 10
63,227
-3.4%
Industrial 25
87,430
+0.4%
Financial 15
16,160
-0.5%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE