Rabies-A deadly disease

[ Yanu Rebi and Gautom Taku ]
Rabies is one of the oldest recognized diseases affecting both humans and animals. Even after many years, the disease is still causing thousands of deaths, especially in India. There is no treatment to cure once a person starts showing signs and symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India accounts for 36 percent of rabies-related deaths in the world.
In Arunachal itself, thousands of deaths occur each year. This is principally due to lack of awareness, knowledge, protective measure, financial crisis, negligence and large numbers of stray dogs.
A dog is the main source transmission of rabies to man. According to the WHO 99 percent rabies is transmitted by dog to human, whereas cats, rats, and raccoons are responsible for one percent transmission in humans in India.
India is a rabies endemic area, where about 25,000 (Approx.) people die due to rabies each year. Among these, rabies cases are seen mostly in children between the age group of 5 to 15 years. In 2015, the world called for action by setting a goal of zero human-dog mediated rabies death by 2030 worldwide with the WHO, World Organisation for Animal Health, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) collaborating.
Rabies is also known as mad-dog syndrome, which is caused by the rabies virus belonging to the genus lyssa virus-of the bullet-shaped family of rabdoviridae. It is a zoonotic acute infective disease of the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain).
The virus is present in the saliva of an infected dog from which its transfers to man through biting, licking of fresh wound or open wound, mucous membrane and scratching. The incubation period (from the entry of virus to showing signs & symptoms) is variable. It may take two to three weeks to many years, generally depending upon the site of bite and the amount of virus loaded. The closer the bite is to the brain, the lower is the incubation period.
The disease generally develops in humans when a rabies-infected animal bites the man. The virus present in the saliva enters and replicates itself in the muscle cells. After several days, the virus will enter the peripheral nerve from where it migrates to the brain. The infected person exhibits behavioural changes and clinical signs when the virus reaches the brain. After spreading in and infecting the brain, it distributes to other body parts.
It is really important to identify if a dog is suffering from rabies or not. The following signs and symptoms of a rabid dog are – change in behaviour like irritation, excitement, madness, fear of water, neurological dysfunction, excessive foamy saliva secretion, trying to bite any object that is near them, continuous staring at particular space, lowering of head and paralysis of lower jaw. The paralysis occurs in ascending order (i.e. paralysis starts from the head and descends down to lower body parts, followed by coma and death.)
Man also shows these changes, but initially man suffers fever with pain, headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, intolerance to noise and bright light, unusual or unexplained tingling and burning sensation at the wound site.
If a person is bitten or scratched by the dog that may have rabies, or if the dog licks an open wound, the individual should immediately take the following steps-
1. Immediate wash the wound with plenty of water and soap for 15 minutes.
2. If an iodine containing or anti-viral medicine is available then that should be applies to the wound.
3. An anti-rabies vaccine should be administrated from that day onwards and a rabies immunoglobulin can be administrated within seven days of a bite. These anti-rabies vaccines should be given on 0 day, 3rd, 7th, 14th and 28th days by intramuscular route.
4. Safely confine the dog that bit someone in an isolated place for 10 days for observation and try to collect as much as information on it.
If the dog is not showing any signs and symptoms of rabies and is alive for 10 days, then the dog is not infected with rabies and the person can stop taking the vaccine.
One should never apply any irritants to the wound such as turmeric, mustard oil, plant juice, acid, alkalis, or any substance that can penetrate the skin and do not cover the wound with dressings or bandages.
Once a person or dog starts showing signs and symptoms, the death of that person or dog will take place within 10 days. The vaccine is only a way to prevent the rabies.
These days where people are very fond and fascinated in keeping dogs as pets, the chance incidence of rabies becomes more if we do not take proper caution and vaccinate them. This can be done by vaccinating them with pre-exposure vaccine that is the anti-rabies vaccine for dogs before the exposure to rabies. The schedule for vaccinating dogs is:
First dose at 3 months of age
First booster should be given after 21 days of first dose and this vaccine should be repeated every year.
Cases of rabies are generally seen in villages where no veterinary hospital, veterinary doctor or such facilities are available, or due to low development of road and communication channel because of which schemes like ‘zero by 30’ are unable to reach such areas.
By taking care of few things, like proper vaccination, immediate treatment after biting, and checking the number of stray dogs we can prevent rabies.
The contributors are students of the College of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry, Selesih, Mizoram.