Rabies is a powerful virus that impacts the nervous system of any animal it infects. The good news is that only mammals can contract it. The bad news is that this includes many popular pets as well as human beings. Rabies is transferred through bite wounds and enters the body when saliva from the infected creature contacts the bloodstream, hence the common portrayal of rabid animals foaming at the mouth. While salivation is a symptom, there are much safer signs to look for in pets and wildlife that can protect you, your family, and your pets well before you get close enough to see it.
Symptoms and Transmission
The rabies virus directly attacks the brain of its victims. The earliest signs of rabies are headaches, fever, and a general sense of weakness. The host will quickly transition to a range of neurological symptoms that include confusion, excitability, anxiousness, insomnia, agitation, and hallucinations. At this point the disease becomes more visible at a distance, and even more so when partial paralysis and a marked fear of water sets in. The foaming at the mouth caused by an increase of saliva production and difficulty swallowing also appear at this stage. When these symptoms occur, death is not far off and will occur within a few days. Rare cases of disease transmission have happened through mucous membranes including the eyes and mouth and airborne particles, such as sneezing. Even transplants of infected organs can cause the new body to contract rabies, though this is an extraordinary circumstance.
Avoidance and Treatment
The easiest way to escape infection is to not approach any animal that is strange to you, even lost dogs with visible identification tags. Especially avoid animals that seem dazed or out of focus. If you suspect that a creature in your neighborhood has somehow contracted rabies, call a wildlife control group or removal service that is trained in handling the situation. Absolutely do not approach the animal. This is especially true for carnivores and omnivores such as skunks, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons, which are the most commonly-reported hosts for rabies. Some insect-eating bats may also carry the virus. If you are bitten by an animal that you suspect is rabid, rush to a doctor immediately. You will receive an anti-rabies vaccine. A vaccine is also available pre-bite for those interested, though you should always receive a booster shot immediately upon contact with the virus. Know that you cannot transmit the virus unless you contract it. Immunization will prevent this. Pets should also receive vaccines and be kept up to date with regular boosters. If an untreated pet contracts rabies, euthanize it immediately for your safety and the safety of other people and animals. Call Mid Atlantic Wildlife Control at 443-417-3137 or see our online contact page for any questions about rabies or to report a suspected carrier. Follow or Contact us through Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, too.