Sadie’s Thoughts About Rabies

It is a very hot and humid Florida afternoon and Gram and I are sitting in the shade of our large oak tree having and interesting conversation while Gram is drinking cold lemonade and I am sitting here watching her.

What Gram and I like to do is find a topic for discussion and then pick it to death. Mostly we talk about “dog things,” but once in awhile we will wander off on other interesting subjects. Today we started talking about the bats that are flying around our house in the evenings and that led us to a conversation about rabies and this is a result of our conversation.

For humans to prevent exposure to rabies the first step is to avoid trying to befriend stray dogs and/or wild animals.

The most common rabid bites have been known to come from dogs, with bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks coming in a close second. Since the development of the rabies vaccine, there have been no reports of rabies caused by dog bites in a number of years within the United States, due to the fact most states require both cats and dogs to be vaccinated for rabies, at an early age. Currently however, bats seem to be the top problem maker in most developed countries.

Very rarely has rabies been contacted without an actual bite. It is believed the saliva of an infected animal transmits the disease through a bite that breaks the skin. It is possible, but extremely rare that infected saliva or nervous tissue could be transmitted to an open wound or into a mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth.)

If a wild animal or a dog has bitten or scratched you and it is not possible for you to safely trap the animal, call local animal control authorities at once. It is important, if at all possible to have the animal available for observation and testing, if rabies is suspected.

A test called immunofluorescence is used to examine the brain tissue of the dead animal. The same test is used to test a human for rabies, using some skin from the neck or they may check for the virus in your saliva or spinal fluid.

A bite should be washed extremely well with soap and water and then attended to by a physician or a trip to the emergency room, generally stitches are not used for animal bites. If rabies is suspected, treatment consists of a dose of rabies immune globulin and then five doses of rabies vaccine given on the first day and then on the following 3rd, 7th, 14th, and 28th days after exposure

Rabies is a viral disease affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and a few of the symptoms are:

– a low grade fever (102 degrees or lower)

– stress and anxiety

– loss of feeling in one part of the body

– numbness

– muscle spasms

– swallowing difficulty (which is often called hydrophobia)

Symptoms may take from two to eight weeks to appear and sometimes longer. If treatment is not given for a suspected bite it is possible for death to occur.

If you are traveling to an undeveloped country such as India, it is suggested you get vaccinated for rabies. It is an injection of killed rabies virus given in three doses, the first two within a week of each other and the third dose three weeks later.

To protect yourself and your family avoid contact with wild animals and stray dogs, especially those behaving abnormally,

Well, these are a few things that I learned about rabies from Gram. I hope it has enlightened you as it did me and I am very glad that we dogs have been removed from the “most wanted list” of rabies biters.

Until next time, I remain, your Sadie.

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