Rabies: Not Just a Bite, but a Saliva-Transmitted Threat
Many individuals hold the misconception that rabies can only be contracted through a bite from an infected animal, typically a rabid dog. However, the reality is that rabies can also be transmitted via the saliva of an infected animal, making even a scratch or lick on a person's skin with open wounds or scratches a potential route of transmission.
1. Is rabies contagious?Rabies is a perilous disease caused by the Lyssavirus, belonging to the Lyssaviridae family. Once it infiltrates the human or mammalian body, this virus navigates through the nervous system, infiltrating the spinal cord and brain. This destructive journey results in nerve center damage within the brain, inducing a state of madness in both animals and humans alike.
Rabies is a life-threatening ailment that can prove fatal if the person bitten fails to properly clean the wound and receive prompt medical attention. There is no cure for rabies; prevention is achieved through vaccination against the disease, with rabies cases tending to surge during the summer months. As rabies is a viral infection, it is inherently contagious, emphasizing the paramount importance of rabies prevention.
2. How is rabies transmitted?The primary mode of rabies transmission is through the saliva of rabid animals, typically via bites or scratches on a human's body. An alarming 96% of human rabies cases in Southeast Asia stem from dog bites. Moreover, the proximity of the bite site to the central nervous system correlates with the disease's rapid development in the victim.
While the most common method of transmission is through bites, the disease can also be transmitted through saliva when infected dogs, cats, or other animals lick or scratch wounds or skin abrasions. Additionally, the world acknowledges the potential for airborne transmission when individuals inhabit bat caves or come into contact with bat waste. Four recorded cases of rabies in humans have been linked to this airborne transmission, often related to experimental work with animals.
Several factors influence the development of a rabies infection:
- Type of contact and the nature of the animal bite.
- Bite severity.
- Amount of rabies virus entering the body.
- The patient's immune status.
3. If bitten by a vaccinated animal, do I still need a rabies vaccine?There's a common misconception that being bitten by a vaccinated dog eliminates the need for a rabies vaccine. While a properly vaccinated dog with confirmed vaccine effectiveness does have a high degree of protection against rabies, various factors can confound this assurance.
Therefore, even if the dog has been vaccinated, it is crucial to seek immediate medical evaluation and potentially receive a rabies vaccine. A medical professional will assess the wound and determine whether a vaccination is necessary.
4. Can rabies be transmitted from person to person?In theory, human-to-human transmission of rabies is possible since humans are mammals. However, in practice, no cases of person-to-person transmission through conventional routes have been documented.
Professional butchers might face a risk of infection when handling rabid animals and working with infected parts, such as brains. Still, there have been no instances of rabies transmission through the consumption of cooked meat from infected animals.
Human-to-human transmission of rabies, while relatively rare, remains possible, particularly through corneal or organ transplantation. Instances of transmission have occurred in corneal transplant recipients and, more recently, in some solid organ and vascular tissue transplant recipients. Thus, it is advisable not to source corneas or organs from patients who have succumbed to encephalitis or any undiagnosed neurological disease.