Rabies (in Laos)

Rabies Laos
This hot season could see a rise in the potential for outbreaks of Rabies in Laos, as the disease is most active in infected animals during warmer weather. A severe disease for both animals and humans, Rabies is virtually untreatable and can be fatal within a number of days, so extreme caution must be exercised around any untreated animals.

Rabies, which causes hydrophobia, is a viral disease that affects warm-blooded animals including dogs, cats, rodents, squirrels, monkeys, bats and humans. The virus travels to the brain through the nervous system, and if contracted and untreated is almost always fatal.

How is Rabies contracted?

Rabies is transmitted to humans from affected animals. There are two ways that Rabies might be contracted:
1. Rabies as present in the nerves and saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal and the route of infection is usually via a bite.
2.  A rabid animal such as a domestic pet may lick a wounded or infected region on a person’s skin.

What are the symptoms of Rabies?

Within the first 2-3 days, infected individuals may experience slight fever or flu-like symptoms.  Soon after, the symptoms expand to slight or partial paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior,paranoia, terror, and hallucinations, progressing to delirium. Death almost invariably results 2 to 10 days after first symptoms.

What steps should be taken if your dog has rabies or you have been bitten by a rabid animal?

1. Thoroughly wash the wound as soon as possible with soap and water for approximately five minutes to reduce the number of viral particles. Use an antiseptic such as iodine or alcohol (ethanol) after washing.

2. If your dog has died, it is still important to check with a veterinarian to see if its death was caused by Rabies. If you believe your dog may have contracted rabies, keep it locked away for 10 days to check if rabies symptoms occur. If signs of rabies are present, take the animal to a veterinarian for vaccination or treatment.

3. If you are not aware if you were bitten, or did not see an animal that has bitten you, you must be vaccinated as soon as possible, as the vaccine may still be effective.

The Rabies Vaccine

If you never had rabies shots before, then you can expect to receive four doses of vaccine over a 14 day period and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) on the same day as the first dose of vaccine.  Rabies immunoglobulin provides immediate protection against rabies until your body has responded to the vaccine and makes its own antibodies to rabies.  If you have been vaccinated previously with one of the currently licensed vaccines, then you will need two booster doses of vaccine.  The first dose should be given as soon as possible and the second dose three days later.  However, rabies immunoglobulin should not be given.

Benefits of vaccination against Rabies
Immunization prior to exposure will prevent the spread of the disease should an individual be bitten by an infected animal. It is still necessary to receive a further 2-3 injections if bitten by an infected animal even for those who have been immunized.

What are the signs of an infected animal?

Rabid animals:

-Are fully or partially paralyzed

-Experience a loss of appetite

-Exhibit strange behaviors, such as snapping at the air or turning in circles

-Are nocturnal animals who wander during the day — or diurnal animals who start going out at night

-Drool excessively

-Are wild animals who show no fear of humans

-Exhibit symptoms of pica (eating substances that aren’t food, such as rocks, dirt or wood)

-Have sporadic changes in mood or behavior

-Appear to be restless or aggressive

-Are obviously disoriented

-Acquire a change in voice (you may notice a change in the pitch and tone of your dog’s bark, for example)

Rabid Cat Laos

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Source: VTEtoday, CDC (USA)