World Rabies Day: Can rabies be cured? Symptoms and stages of the infection in humans


World Rabies Day is observed every year on September 28 in order to bring awareness about the world’s deadliest infectious disease. Rabies is a deadly viral infection that is spread by the bite of an infected animal such as stray dogs, coyotes, fox, bats, among others. It is very important to immediately take vaccination after potential exposure to prevent rabies as once the symptoms start showing, it turns fatal, and in most cases results in death. The symptoms begin with fever, and headache, and progress to hallucination, confusion, fear of water, paralysis and eventually coma. One should be very careful while touching or feeding wild animals or pets like dogs or cats. It is very important to vaccinate your pet to protect them from the infection and in turn protecting yourself. (Also read: More dog owners are questioning vaccines like rabies after Covid)

It is very important to immediately take vaccination after potential exposure to prevent rabies as once the symptoms start showing, it turns fatal,(Freepik)

“Rabies is a deadly viral infection that affects humans and animals, transmitted primarily through the saliva of infected animals, typically via bites. Unfortunately, once clinical symptoms manifest, rabies is almost invariably fatal, and there is no known cure for it,” says Dr Aniket Mule, consultant internal medicine, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road.

Stages of rabies

The progression of the disease in humans follows distinct stages. From relatively mild symptoms, the disease eventually affects the patient severely, leading to respiratory failure and death.

“The incubation period, which can vary from days to years, marks the time between initial infection and the onset of symptoms. Next, the prodromal phase emerges, featuring early, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and discomfort at the site of the wound. This phase lasts only a few days, leading to the acute neurologic phase, the most severe stage. During this phase, individuals exhibit symptoms such as confusion, hallucinations, agitation, and hydrophobia (fear of water), often progressing to paralysis,” says Dr Mule.

Dr Mule says once these neurologic symptoms surface, the disease becomes virtually incurable, with death as the inevitable outcome.

What happens in final stage of rabies

“In the final stage, victims may fall into a coma, ultimately succumbing to respiratory failure. Preventative measures, including immediate vaccination after potential exposure, remain the most effective means of combating rabies and saving lives. Vigilance and swift action are paramount in regions where rabies is prevalent, as this disease demands proactive prevention,” concludes the expert.

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