St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Rabies

    Rabies is a deadly viral infection that is mainly spread by infected animals.

    Causes

    Rabies is spread by infected saliva that enters the body through a bite or broken skin. The virus travels from the wound to the brain, where it causes swelling, or inflammation. This inflammation leads to symptoms of the disease. Most rabies deaths occur in children.

    In the past, human cases in the United States usually resulted from a dog bite, but recently, more cases of human rabies have been linked to bats and raccoons. Although dog bites are a common cause of rabies in developing countries, there have been no reports of rabies caused by dog bites in the United States for a number of years due to widespread animal vaccination.

    Other wild animals that can spread the rabies virus include:

    • Foxes
    • Skunks

    Very rarely, rabies has been transmitted without an actual bite. This is believed to have been caused by infected saliva that has gotten into the air, usually in bat caves.

    The United Kingdom had once completely eradicated rabies, but recently, rabies-infected bats have been found in Scotland.

    Symptoms

    The actual time between infection and when you get sick ranges from 10 days - 7 years. This is called the incubation period. The averageperiod is 3 -12 weeks.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Drooling
    • Convulsions
    • Exaggerated sensation at the bite site
    • Excitability
    • Loss of feeling in an area of the body
    • Loss of muscle function
    • Low-grade fever (102 degrees F or lower)
    • Muscle spasms
    • Numbness and tingling
    • Pain at the site of the bite
    • Restlessness
    • Swallowing difficulty (drinking causes spasms of the voicebox)

    Exams and Tests

    If an animal bites you, try to gather as much information about the animal as possible. Call your local animal control authorities to safely capture the animal. If rabies is suspected, the animal will be watched for signs of rabies.

    A special test called immunofluorescence is used to look at the brain tissue after an animal is dead. This test can reveal whether or not the animal had rabies.

    The doctor or nurse will examine you and look at the bite. The wound will be cleaned andtreated as appropriate.

    The same test used on animals can be done to check for rabies in humans, using a piece of skin from the neck. Doctors may also look for the rabies virus in your saliva or spinal fluid, although these tests are not as sensitive and may need to be repeated.

    A spinal tap may be done to look for signs of the infection in your spinal fluid

    Treatment

    Clean the wound well with soap and water, and seek professional medical help. You'll need a doctor to thoroughly clean the wound and remove any foreign objects. Most of the time, stitches should not be used for animal bite wounds.

    If there is any risk of rabies, you will be given a series of a preventive vaccine. This is generally given in 5 doses over 28 days.

    Most patients also receive a treatment called human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG). This is given the day the bite occurred.

    Call your doctor right away after an animal bite or after being exposed to animals such as bats, foxes, and skunks. They may carry rabies.

    • Call even when no bite took place.
    • Immunization and treatment for possible rabies are recommended for at least up to 14 days after exposure or a bite.

    There is no known effective treatment for people with symptoms of a rabies infection.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    It's possible to prevent rabies if immunization is given soon after the bite. To date, no one in the United States has developed rabies when given the vaccine promptly and appropriately.

    Once the symptoms appear, the person rarely survives the disease, even with treatment. Death from respiratory failure usually occurs within 7 days after symptoms start.

    Possible Complications

    Untreated, rabies can lead to coma and death.

    In rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if an animal bites you.

    Prevention

    To help prevent rabies:

    • Avoid contact with animals you don't know.
    • Get vaccinated if you work in a high-risk occupation or travel to countries with a high rate of rabies.
    • Make sure your pets receive the proper immunizations. Ask your veterinarian.
    • Follow quarantine regulations on importing dogs and other mammals in disease-free countries.

    References

    Rupprecht CE, Briggs D, Brown CM, et al. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of a reduced (4-dose) vaccine schedule for postexposure prophylaxis to prevent human rabies: recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Mar 19;59(RR-2):1-9. Erratum in: MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 Apr 30;59(16):493.

    Bassin SL, Rupprecht CE, Bleck TP. Rhabdoviruses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 163.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Rabies

      illustration

    • Central nervous system

      illustration

      • Rabies

        illustration

      • Central nervous system

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Review Date: 8/14/2012

        Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
        adam.com

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


        Back  |  Top
        About Us
        Contact Us
        History
        Mission
        Locations & Directions
        Quality Reports
        Annual Reports
        Honors & Awards
        Community Health Needs
        Assessment

        Newsroom
        Services
        Brain & Spine
        Cancer
        Heart
        Maternity
        Orthopedics
        Pulmonary
        Sleep Medicine
        Urgent Care
        Women's Services
        All Services
        Patients & Visitors
        Locations & Directions
        Find a Physician
        Tour St. Luke's
        Patient & Visitor Information
        Contact Us
        Payment Options
        Financial Assistance
        Send a Card
        Mammogram Appointments
        Health Tools
        My Personal Health
        mystlukes
        Spirit of Women
        Health Information & Tools
        Clinical Trials
        Health Risk Assessments
        Employer Programs -
        Passport to Wellness

        Classes & Events
        Classes & Events
        Spirit of Women
        Donate & Volunteer
        Giving Opportunities
        Volunteer
        Physicians & Employees
        For Physicians
        Remote Access
        Medical Residency Information
        Pharmacy Residency Information
        Physician CPOE Training
        Careers
        Careers
        St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
        Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile