Rabies In Humans From Dog Bites: Symptoms & Treatment Options

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by virus which is present in saliva of infected animal. It is transmitted to man or another animal through bite of an infected animal. Rabies in urban areas is propagated mainly by unimmunized domestic or street dogs, cats. Animals living in jungles such as wolves, foxes, raccoons, skunks, jackals, are also carriers of rabies virus.

The virus invades central nervous system and brain. Rabies virus damages brain and spinal cord which ultimately leads to death. Once the symptoms develop only palliative treatment is possible as death is certain.

People who are high risk groups such as veterinarians, animal handlers, laboratory workers are recommended to take rabies vaccine as prophylaxis measure.

Symptoms Of Rabies In Humans After Dog Bite

The incubation period of rabies virus is between 4 to 8 weeks; however it may vary from 5 days to 7 years. Bites on face, neck, and head which are close to central nervous system have shorter incubation period. Rabies is sudden in onset.

  • The initial symptoms include pain and numbness in the scar, fever, headache, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and muscle pain.
  • After 2 to 3 days patient has mental excitement, restlessness, and hydrophobia.
    Hydrophobia is a state of fear at the sight of water even if the patient is thirsty. Patient has sudden spasm of muscles of mouth, throat, and chest at the sight of water. Patient is not able to drink water. At later stage even sound of water causes distressing spasm.
  • Other predominant symptoms include anxiety, excess of saliva production from mouth, hallucination, insomnia, lower leg paralysis.
  • In few days after the onset of symptoms paralysis ascends upwards and ultimately involves the respiratory muscles leading to respiratory failure and death.
  • The life of patient can be saved if the treatment is started early before the symptoms appear. Once the symptoms develop, in majority cases death is certain.

Treatment And Prevention Of Rabies In Humans

Once the symptoms develop, treatment is palliative as the condition in most cases is fatal. Patient is shifted in intensive care unit. Seizures in rabies infection are controlled by heavy sedative drugs. Fluid and nutrition is maintained through IV route. The airway is kept patent. In rare cases patients who are partially immunized survive due to intensive care.

Post exposure prophylaxis is therefore very important to prevent rabies. Soon after the animal bite or leakage of animal saliva on wound the prophylactic treatment should begin. It consists of one dose of immunoglobulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a period of 28 days. Vaccines are given intramuscular region in deltoid region of the arm on 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28 days. Human immunoglobulin is infiltrated at the site of the bite. In addition tetanus toxoid injection and antibiotics are given to the patient.

Wound treatment is also important and it should begin immediately. It reduces viral load. Clean the wound with soap water or antiseptic solution. Suturing of wound should be avoided.

Pre exposure prophylactic vaccination is indicated in certain high risk group of individuals. Veterinarian, animal handlers, laboratory workers need to be vaccinated.

Take preventive measures of being infected by rabies virus.

  • Avoid feeding wild animals.
  • Observe them from a distance.
  • Vaccinate your pets regularly as recommended by the veterinarian.
  • Avoid coming in contact with animals that show sign of rabies.
  • Stay away from street dogs.