What is Rabies?

Rabies is a Contagious Viral disease of dogs and other mammals. The Virus is transmitted in the saliva of a rabid animal. It is fatal and spread to humans when they come into contact with the saliva of a Rabid animal.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

In humans:

At first there might be the following signs; tingling, prickling or itching around the bite or scratch area. They might also show flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, headaches and tiredness.

Neurological symptoms may develop in a few days, these include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Excessive movements or agitation
  • Confusion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Extreme sensitivity (to lights, sound or touch)

In dogs:

There are 2 forms of rabies.

Paralytic form and Furious form

Early symptoms will show mild abnormalities of the Nervous system.

Most dogs progress into the furious stage or paralytic stage after 3 days.

Furious rabies in dogs is characterized by extreme behavioral changes, including overt aggression and attack behavior. Paralytic rabies, also referred to as dumb rabies, is characterized by weakness and loss of coordination, followed by paralysis.

If you notice any of the below symptoms in dogs immediately contact local authorities (Sub-county officer or KSPCA).

  • Pica
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Hydrophobia
  • Jaw is dropped
  • Inability to swallow
  • Change in tone of bark
  • Muscular lack of coordination
  • Unusual shyness or aggression
  • Excessive excitability
  • Constant irritability/changes in attitude and behavior
  • Excessive salivation (hypersalivation), or frothy saliva

How do you Prevent Rabies?

Since Rabies is 100% preventable, there are numerous methods we can use to reduce the transmission and save Human and Animal life.

The 3 main preventative methods include:

  • Vaccinate
  • Post exposure treatments
  • Education

Vaccinate

The best and most effective way of controlling the spread of rabies is by vaccinating your dogs. Rabies vaccinations are readily available at any veterinary clinic. It is important to ensure that the vaccination is carried out by a registered veterinarian, the veterinarian should give you a vaccination certificate with his/her KVB number and signature.

Legally in Kenya, every Dog needs to be vaccinated against Rabies annually.

Post-exposure treatment

This involves everything you do after you may have come into contact with a possibly Rabid animal or any animal that is a possible carrier of Rabies.

What should you do if you get bit or scratched by someone’s dog/cat?

  • For all wounds it is recommended that you wash the wound with soap and running water for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.
  • Clean the wound and dress it. If the wound is severe then seek medical care.
  • Ask the owner if the dog/cat has been vaccinated and to show you proof of vaccination.

If the pet has been vaccinated there is a very low chance that he might spread the virus. However, it is still recommended that you seek medical help. This generally involves post-exposure vaccine which consists of 5 doses.

If the dog is not vaccinated, you will need to seek medical help and receive the post-exposure vaccination doses.

What should you do if you get bit by a stray dog/cat or other wild animal?

  • For all wounds it is recommended that you wash the wound with soap and running water for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • Clean the wound and dress it.
  • Seek medical care. This will involve receiving the post-exposure vaccinations.
  • Report the animal to local authorities (Sub-county veterinary officer or KSPCA)

Educate

Educating local communities and children is very important in the fight against rabies.

40% of people bitten by suspected rabid animals are children under 15 years of age.

Children should be taught the dangers of approaching wild or stray animals.

Remind children not to touch or feed stray cats or dogs.

Teach kids to stay away from wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

What should you do if you see an animal that may be Rabid?

  • Urgently notify local authorities. In Kenya the Sub-county veterinary officer or KSPCA should be immediately notified.
  • Alert the people around the area so they are vigilant and keep distance until the authorities arrive on site.
  • If you know anyone who has come into contact with this animal or has been bit by the animal ask them to seek medical care immediately.

What not to do if you see a rabid animal?

  • Do not try to approach the animal or try to go anywhere next to it.
  • Do not panic and scream.
  • Do not try provoke it or capture it.
  • Do not try inhumane ways of killing or harming the animal- this might cause further spread of the virus

Always practice caution when approaching any wild or stray animal. As a community we can come together so that we can control and eventually eradicate Rabies.

Feel free to contact your local vets or KSPCA for any questions you may have regarding this topic.

Article by: Dr. Krishna Kesharia

 

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