More than 55,000 people around the world die each year from Rabies. It is estimated that of these, nearly 95 percent occur in Africa and Asia. It is also reported that most deaths of humans by rabies are the direct result of a bite from a rabies-infected dog. Of these, nearly 60 percent are children under 15.
Although great strides have been made over the past few decades in the treatment and prevention of this often-fatal disease, the numbers are clear. Thousands of people every year die from rabies and most of those people are children. Once a patient notices the symptoms of rabies, it is nearly always too late. There is no treatment for the disease once the symptoms appear.
Rabies is caused from a virus that can live in wild and domestic animals. Besides dogs, raccoons and bats have also been linked to deaths in children due to rabies. The virus is transmitted from animal to human through contact with infected saliva. In other words, bites or scratches from an infected animal will infect the human in contact.
The first signs of a rabies infection show up like flu-related illnesses. Fever, fatigue and headaches may be reported. Symptoms then begin to affect the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. When the disease progresses to the critical stage, paralysis, hyperactivity and other symptoms begin to appear. Paralysis will eventually become complete. Once this stage progresses, coma and death are imminent. Unless the patient is receiving intensive care, death will typically progress within seven days.
In more developed countries, rabies is typically transmitted by wild animals, due to the precautionary measures taken by pet owners to have their pets vaccinated for the disease. In 2003, South America reported deaths from rabies that were the result of bat bites. Other wild animals such as skunks, foxes, wolves and jackals may carry rabies, but deaths from infection by these animals are very rare.
Vaccines for rabies are classified as immunoglobulin vaccines and are recommended for patients with Category III cases of the disease. These vaccines however are very expensive and have been known to be in very short supply, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Prevention from the disease can be maintained through vaccinating animals and presenting awareness to the public. Health staff should be trained for the specific vaccines and techniques used to treat the disease.
Research over the years has produced vaccines that can prevent rabies in humans before and directly after they suspect they have been exposed. The vaccines available for domestic animals and certain wildlife have also helped to reduce the number of rabies cases worldwide.
Global and community efforts are being done in order to make people more aware of rabies and of the vaccines that are currently available. Preventing the disease is deemed the best way to completely control it. Countries such as Malaysia and Japan have shown through studies that eliminating the disease in domestic animals can completely eliminate the transmission of rabies to humans and to other animals.