Overview of Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic viral illness that spreads from the saliva of animals infected with the rabies virus. Disease transmission occurs through the bite of infected animals. Animals that host the rabies virus include both wild animals (bats, raccoons, foxes) and domestic ones (cats, dogs, cattle).

The condition is fatal because the rabies virus directly affects the central nervous system. After the infection is established, there is little chance to survive so prevention is the only possible solution. 


Infected dog bites are considered to be a potential threat when it comes to virus transmission. Most of the virus transmission occurs through saliva and rarely viral transmission can occur through non-bite exposures including scratches, wounds, and abrasions. 


Signs and Symptoms of Rabies

Rabies infection in its early stages is characterized by mild flu symptoms that can last for days. Other than flu, rabies infection is also characterized by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea/ vomiting
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Aggressive behavior or hyperactivity
  • Excessive salivation
  • Weakness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Paralysis

Types of Rabies

Causes of Rabies

Rabies is a viral illness that is caused by the rabies virus. Transmission of this deadly virus can occur in two ways; salivary or non-salivary transmission. Salivary transmission is when a virus is transferred through the bite of an organism infected with a virus. In contrast, non-salivary transmission occurs when a virus enters your body via scratches, abrasions, etc.


Risk Factors of Rabies

Rabies occurs when a person gets bitten by an infected animal. So, living in an area where rabies incidence is already high can act as a risk factor for rabies. Other than this, exposure to wild animals that can act as an animal reservoir of the rabies virus is also an important risk factor for rabies.



Some of the common ways the prevention of rabies include:

  • Vaccination of domestic animals against rabies virus
  • Reduced exposure to wild animals such as raccoons
  • Preventing unnecessary contact with stray animals that are most likely to be the carrier of the disease




Rabies diagnosis can be done using a number of laboratory techniques. These include: 

Microscopy: This method of rabies diagnosis is based on the direct visualization of rabies viral particles under a microscope. This technique uses the smear obtained from brain areas. 

Direct Fluorescent Antibody Technique (DFAT): This technique is based on the detection of rabies antigens using the fluorescent antibody detection method. In DFAT, fluorescent-labeled anti-rabies antibodies are used that bind rabies antigen in affected brain tissue producing fluorescence. 

Histological Examination: Rabies virus can alter the appearance of your tissues and due to this reason histological examination can help with the diagnosis of rabies.

Immunohistochemical Technique: In this technique, rabies is diagnosed using enzyme-based immunodiagnosis. This is an ELISA-based technique that detects rabies antigens in brain tissues. 

Electron Microscopy: This advanced technology is used to visualize the structure of the rabies virus under an electron microscope. 

Treatment of Rabies | When to Consult a Doctor

There is no effective treatment against rabies once you acquire the virus. The condition is fatal with a low survival rate. 

The only way that can let you survive this is the administration of fast-action rabies antibodies shots alongside other rabies vaccination to stop the spread of the virus to your body. However, this is only effective if your physician gets to know whether the animal you got bitten by is carrying the rabies virus.