“I got rabies shots for biting the head off a bat, but that’s OK – the bat had to get Ozzy shots.”
Rabies is caused by a variety of viruses in the family Rhabdoviridae. These viruses infect the central nervous system, thus causing brain degeneration. Passed to humans via animal bites , this virus initially causes fever, headache and general illness symptoms. Soon, however, the neurological degeneration causes anxiety, paralysis, hallucinations, and even hydrophobia (fear of water).
It can take only 24 hours for a person infected with rabies to die, and even if the dose of rabies into the human system is low, if treatment is not started within 24 hours of infection, the likelihood of death increases dramatically.
Thus, it is vital that a person who suspects exposure to the virus, meaning anyone ever bit by an animal, should immediately consult a doctor. Diagnosis of rabies is time consuming, and often doctors will administer the vaccine preventatively. It is also important to wash the wound thoroughly, and it has been shown that if washed with a diluted iodine solution, the incidence of developing rabies is significantly decreased.
Fortunately, the United States has implemented efficient programs to help work with infected animals and in curing infected individuals. The disease is highly curable, but is deadly if untreated. In the United States, “human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.” (1)
There are even preventative vaccines that can be administered to humans and animals. This is a very good idea for individuals who know they will be in an area where they can be exposed to rabies.