Rabies, distemper, parvovirus, heartworm disease, and leptospirosis. All of these conditions are preventable with vaccines and the proper preventatives. While most are not health risks for humans, rabies most definitely is. People can get rabies if they have contact with the saliva or neural tissue of infected animals, such as through a bite or scratch. Left untreated, rabies has a 99 percent mortality rate with fewer than 20 documented cases of survival. The time between exposure and the appearance of symptoms can be days, weeks, months, and even more than a year. This is the scary part, as most people who don’t experience symptoms within a few days or weeks would likely assume they were in the clear.
Left Untreated, Rabies is Nearly Always Fatal
Not so. Once clinical signs finally make their appearance, the disease is nearly always fatal, with patients typically dying within a matter of days. When they do fall ill, more often than not, they fail to inform their physicians of their exposure due to the time-lapse, never putting two and two together. This makes doctors’ jobs near impossible. Infecting the central nervous system, symptoms include delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia, and insomnia, followed by coma and death.
Stay Up to Date on Your Vaccinations
According to the CDC, people with a higher risk for rabies exposure are recommended to be proactive and get a vaccine. Two are currently available in the U.S.: HDCV (Imovax, Sanofi Pasteur) and PCECV (RabAvert, Novartis). Both contain inactivated viruses. If you fall into this group, the protocol calls for two doses. Depending on your risk level, you may be advised to have blood tests or receive a booster dose within three years after the first two doses.
Rabies Vaccines for Humans
The vaccine can also prevent rabies after exposure, but it should be given as soon as possible to avoid the appearance of symptoms. Once they begin, it’s useless. If you’re unvaccinated prior to exposure, you’ll need four doses over two weeks. You’ll likely get another medication called rabies immunoglobulin on the day you receive the first dose or soon afterward. On the bright side, if you’ve received the vaccine in the past, you typically only need two doses then. Keep your pets’ shots up to date for everyone’s sake, and seek medical treatment immediately after an encounter. By all accounts, passing from this disease is a horrific way to go.
Better Safe Than Sorry
All in all, it’s a good idea to keep current on all of your pets various vaccines for better quality of life — not just rabies. Doing so can significantly reduce future medical bills and reduce the chance of loss of life. Like the saying goes, better safe than sorry.