Health & Wellness

Animal Instinct: How You Can Prevent Rabies

The mention of rabies brings to mind images of animals foaming at the mouth and ready to bite. However, it can be difficult to recognize a rabid animal. Here’s what you need to watch out for and what you should do after potential exposure to the virus.

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and is usually transmitted through contact with an infected animal’s saliva after it bites. Once a person exposed to rabies begins to experience symptoms, such as insomnia, fear of water, or hallucinations, it’s nearly always fatal. First symptoms typically occur four to 12 weeks after infection, so it’s imperative to receive immediate preventive treatment if you suspect exposure.

How Do I Prevent Rabies?

If you see a wild animal acting abnormally, such as a bat laying on the ground, stay far away and don’t touch it. It could have rabies, and it might bite you. Call animal control to come and remove the animal. Other animals known to carry the virus are raccoons, foxes, stray dogs, coyotes, and skunks; however, bats are the leading cause of transmission of rabies in America.

Make sure all of your pets are up to date with their rabies vaccines and watch them when outside to make sure they do not have contact with a potentially infected animal. Also, teach your children about the dangers of coming across stray or wild animals to prevent both the transmission of rabies and other animal-related injuries. Children are more likely to get bitten overall and multiple times in high-risk areas. If you come into contact with an animal that possibly has rabies, your first step is to wash out the wound with soap and warm water before visiting your doctor. If you’re unsure whether the animal bit you, treat the situation as if it did.

How Do Doctors Treat Rabies?

First, your doctor will consider the circumstances of your exposure to the animal to determine whether you should receive the treatment for rabies. Preventive methods start with one vaccine and one injection of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG). You will return to the doctor for three more vaccinations over a 14-day period. You will receive the second vaccine on day three, the third on day seven, and the fourth on day 14. It’s crucial to stick to this schedule when receiving the vaccines.

If you’ve had contact with a suspicious animal, schedule a same or next-day appointment with yourprimary care physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group. He or she can determine your next steps and develop an action plan for preventive care.


Sources:
CDC | Rabies
CDC | When to Seek Medical Attention
CDC | Types of Exposure
CDC | What Care Will I Receive?
CDC | Signs and Symptoms
CDC | Prevention in Animals
CDC | Transmission
WHO | Rabies
Healthline | Rabies: Types, Symptoms & Causes

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