Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Rabies facts
- What is rabies?
- What are rabies symptoms and signs in humans?
- What is the history of rabies, and what is the cause of rabies?
- How is rabies transmitted?
- How soon after an exposure should a person seek medical attention?
- How is a rabies infection diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for rabies in humans?
- Should people get a preexposure vaccination before traveling outside the U.S.?
- Can rabies be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for people with rabies?
How is rabies transmitted?
Almost every person who gets rabies has the virus transmitted to them by the bite of an infected animal. The transmission of rabies from human to human is rare; the highest number recorded happened when corneal transplants that were unknown before transplant to contain rabies virus caused rabies in eight patients. Aerosols of infected saliva or bat guano may also transmit rabies. In developing countries, the majority of people are infected by rabid dogs. Rabid dogs are often aggressive and sometimes are drooling, but in other cases, they act very withdrawn.
In underdeveloped and developed countries, there are a number of animals that can transmit rabies to humans. Bats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, cats, wolves, opossums, and other animals are some of the prevalent wild or feral animals that may become infected. In Mexico, cows have become infected from bat bites and can transmit the virus to humans via a bite or saliva if the human skin is abraded or cut. Currently, in the U.S., bats and raccoons cause the most bites that may lead to rabies. Readers should note that drooling saliva is not always present in wild or domestic animals with rabies. Any animal (domestic or wild) that acts strangely (for example, unusually aggressive or docile, unusual gait, has seizure-like activity) should be suspected of having rabies. Animals that are active at night (for example, raccoons, skunks and bats) may become active during the day; this daytime activity may be a sign of a rabies-infected animal.
High-risk animal contacts for transmission of rabies are bats, raccoons, fox, skunks, and feral cats. Lower-risk animals are dogs, cats, coyote, deer, bear, horses, cattle, pigs, and other non-rodent wild animal species. The disease is almost never contracted from squirrels, rats, mice, or rabbits.
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