Early symptoms and signs:
The symptoms and signs of rabies start after an incubation period (i.e., the period between the bite and the appearance of clinical manifestations) of, usually, 1-2 months. This long incubation period is a blessing for the patient because, if during this period the patient is immunized, he will be protected against the disease.
As soon as the clinical symptoms appear, the patient starts getting a tingling, numbness, and a dull aching pain, radiating in the affected limb. The wound caused by the bite will become inflamed, causing pain, and there will be abnormal sensations like pricking, irritation, etc. Soon the patient shows signs of restlessness, lack of sleep (insomnia), anxiety, etc., due to the effect of the virus on the central nervous system. The patient also starts complaining of difficulty in swallowing and there is a change in the voice due to the spasm of the muscles of the throat and the larynx respectively.
Late symptoms and signs
As the disease progresses, the patient will start getting convulsions in the whole body, although, in .between the convulsions, the patient becomes calm and his mind also becomes clear. The spasm of the throat as well as of the larynx becomes more and more severe. Whenever the patient tries to take water, there is a sudden spasm of the throat causing intense choking. Due to this reason, the patient gets scared at the sight of water. This fear of water is the most characteristic symptom, and hence this disease is commonly called hydrophobia. At the same time, the spasm of the larynx also goes on increasing, the voice becomes hoarse, the patient may make odd sounds (owing to the sudden contraction of the larynx), and the sound may even resemble a ‘bark’. The spasm of the larynx may be so intense that the patient may die due to the sudden stoppage of respiration (respiratory failure). The patient may also die during an attack of convulsions, due to heart failure. The patient normally expires within seven days after the onset of the symptoms of rabies. Sometimes there may occur a sudden paralysis of all the four limbs and the trunk, followed by coma and death.
Urgent steps after the bite
Following the bite of the rabid dog, or when the dog has licked a fresh cut or abrasion, or has scratched with its claws, or when the dog has run away after biting the person, unprovoked, follow quickly the undermentioned emergency procedure for prevention of the disease, without waiting for the symptoms of rabies to appear. Once symptoms of rabies appear, death is almost inevitable.
The most effective measure to protect against rabies is to immediately take care of the wound caused by the bite of the rabid dog, or any other animal, and immunization should not be delayed unnecessarily.