Essential Information on Rabies

This information on rabies could save a life!

Rabies is a really nasty viral disease that has been recorded in humans for over 3000 years. It is a deadly disease with a 100% mortality rate in both animals and humans once symptoms are observed.

Rabies is endemic in many countries in the world and it is a good idea for you to find out the rabies status of the area that you live in as well as the most common carriers of the disease - e.g. wild animals, domestic dogs etc.

Having said that, please be aware that rabies can infect any warm-blooded vertebrate and therefore cattle, sheep, cats, goats and so on can become infected and die of rabies.

For the more technically minded, the rabies virus is a member of the family Rhabdoviridae. Within this family is the genus Lyssavirus which includes the rabies serogroup which is made up of the rabies virus (lyssavirus serotype 1), and the rabies related viruses - Lagos Bat Virus (Lyssavirus serotype 2), Mokola Virus (Lyssavirus serotype 3), and Duvenhage virus (Lyssavirus serotype 4).


The virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted when the infected animal bites another animal or human. Transmission can also take place if the saliva comes into contact with mucous membranes or skin abrasions. The virus does not penetrate intact skin.

Once the virus gains entry to the body, it travels along nerves, eventually finding its way to the brain at which point clinical signs of disease become evident. Thus if the victim is bitten on a toe, it could take several months for the virus to reach the brain and by this time the initial bite has long been forgotten.


The major warning sign is a change in normal behaviour behaviour.

Examples include domestic animals becoming very aggressive, attacking inanimate objects and wild animals acting very tame and venturing into homes etc.

In the end stage all these animals will likely show some degree of paralysis and then collapse and die.


Once the victim starts showing symptoms, there is no effective treatment.


In animals, prevention is based on regular vaccination of susceptible animals. It has been estimated that if 70% of an animal population is effectively vaccinated against rabies, then the virus will not be able to survive and propagate in that population.

Why? Because the virus can only spread if there are susceptible animals. If a vaccinated animal is bitten by an infected animal, the infected animal will die. However, the bitten animal, if vaccinated, will not contract the disease and thus will not spread the disease further.

What to do if you are bitten by a suspect rabid animal.

1) Wash the wounds with soap immediately under running water.

2) Leave the wound open and continue flushing it until you get to a doctor or hospital.

3) If possible, phone ahead to alert medical staff that they are dealing with a suspect rabies case.

4) Once you have been treated and vaccinated, try to ensure that the offending animal is put down and that the brain is tested for rabies - there are many other causes of neurological symptoms other than rabies.

5) Finish your full course of vaccinations unless the animal is tested and is negative for Rabies.

The post exposure treatment and vaccination is very effective if done properly and in time.

Please remember this essential

information on rabies