An acute viral infection of the nervous system, once known as hydrophobia, that primarily affects dogs but can be transmitted to humans by a bite or a lick over broken skin. The virus travels to the brain; once symptoms develop, rabies is usually fatal. The average incubation period is 1–3 months, depending on the site of the bite. The symptoms are slight fever and headache, leading to restlessness, hyperactivity, and, in some cases, strange behaviour, hallucinations, and paralysis. The victim develops convulsions, arrhythmias, and paralysis of the respiratory muscles and is often intensely thirsty, but drinking induces painful spasms of the throat. Death follows 10–14 days after the onset of symptoms. Following an animal bite, immunization with human rabies immunoglobulin and a course of rabies vaccine is necessary; this may prevent rabies if given within 2 days. If symptoms appear, they are treated with sedative drugs and analgesic drugs. The main emphasis is on preventing the disease through quarantine regulations and human and animal immunization. (See also bites, animal.)


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