Rabies: What You Need to Know

2024 has seen a significant rise in case reporting of rabies in the US, as well as countries such as India and Philippines. As Ireland is known to be quite an animal-friendly country, it is important that we stay vigilant and up-to-date with the latest health information and advice when it comes to rabies. Currently, TMB is receiving 1-3 calls per week from patients who have been exposed that require a rabies vaccination.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is typically transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, typically through bites or scratches. The disease is found worldwide but is most common in regions where domestic dogs are not vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is not native to the Republic of Ireland and is considered a rare disease.

The origins of rabies are not well understood, but the virus is believed to have evolved from other viral pathogens that infect animals. The earliest known description of rabies-like symptoms can be found in Mesopotamian texts from around 2300 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans also wrote about the disease, describing symptoms such as hydrophobia (fear of water) and madness in animals.

The virus that causes rabies was first identified in 1805 by French scientist Louis Pasteur, who is also credited with developing the first rabies vaccine. Rabies became a major public health concern in the late 1800s and early 1900s in many parts of the world, as the disease was common in both domestic and wild animals.

Rabies Symptoms

Symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache, muscle weakness, and a tingling sensation at the site of the bite or scratch. As the disease progresses, symptoms can become severe and include hydrophobia (fear of water) and aerophobia (fear of fresh air). Invariably, once symptoms occur, the affected animal or human’s condition will deteriorate rapidly as there is no specific effective treatment once the disease has reached that stage.

Preventing Rabies

To prevent the spread of rabies when travelling, it is important to avoid contact with all warm-blooded animals, particularly all stray dogs, cats and monkeys. Other animals that have been known to carry rabies include foxes, raccoons, and skunks. If an individual is bitten or scratched by an animal, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately and to report the incident to the local authorities.

Rabies can also be prevented through vaccination of domestic animals and through post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for humans who may have been exposed to the virus. Despite these prevention efforts, rabies still causes tens of thousands of deaths each year, primarily in developing countries in regions such as Africa, Asia, and Central and South America

The Irish government has implemented regulations for the importation of animals from other countries to prevent the spread of rabies. These regulations include a requirement for animals to be vaccinated against rabies and to undergo a period of quarantine before they are allowed to enter the country.

Overall, while Ireland is considered a rabies-free country, it is important to be aware of the risks and to take precautions when travelling. If an individual is bitten or scratched by an animal, it is essential to seek medical attention and report the incident to the authorities.

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