You’re less likely to get rabies from a rat but the chances of acquiring the disease become greater with cats and other carnivorous animals like dogs and even bats.
These animals may be infected with the disease and transmit it among themÂ¬selves or to humans by biting them.
Not all animals afflicted with rabies, however, appear “mad” or drooling with saliva, snarling and attacking everyone in their path. The virus which is responsible for the disease may appear in the animal’s saliva days before serious symptoms begin. At first, the animal may simply be restless and irritable before it suffers from hydrophobia (fear of water) and starts attacking people.
Aside from being bitten, a person can also be infected if the animal’s saliva comes in contact with an open wound or any break in the skin. The virus then invades the central nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord and travels to the salivary glands, making it possible for a person to infect others.
The symptoms of rabies fall into three stages. In the invasion stage, there is pain in the wound, fever, headache, rapid pulse, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and phases of rushed speaking.
The stage of excitation follows with mental excitement and the overproduction of saliva. Since swallowing and drinking become difficult and painful at this time, hydrophobia also sets in.
Finally, there is the stage of paralysis where a person suffers from hemiplegia (meaning one side of the body is paralyzed) or paraplegia (the lower limbs of the body are affected). If the patient ever reaches this stage, he or she usually slips into a coma and dies.
These symptoms usually occur anywhere from 10 days to a year. They appear earlier if the infected wound is closer to the brain. That’s why a bite on the face, head, hands and neck is considered more dangerous than those found in other parts of the body.
Since it is difficult to take chances, a person who has been bitten should confine the animal for at least five to 10 days to determine whether or not it has rabies. If the animal dies within this period, its brain should be examined for traces of the virus and a competent physician should be summoned.
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