The symptoms of rabies

California residents may think of dangerous dogs when the subject of rabies is raised, but most modern cases of the disease are blamed on bats and wild carnivores such as raccoons, foxes and skunks. Rabies killed more than 100 Americans each year at the turn of the twentieth century, but efforts to contain the disease lowered the death toll to only one or two per year by the 1990s. Particular attention was paid to eliminating the disease in domestic animals, and more than 90 percent of modern rabies cases occur in wildlife.

After being bitten by an infected animal, a rabies sufferer will develop flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headaches and general feelings of discomfort and weakness. These symptoms generally persist for several days and may be accompanied by itching at the site of the animal bite. As the disease takes hold, sufferers develop signs of cerebral dysfunction including violent mood swings, hallucinations and bouts of extreme anxiety.

Once the clinical signs of rabies are apparent, the disease is almost always fatal. There are only less than 10 cases of humans surviving rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treatment is generally limited to reducing discomfort and easing pain. Most medical efforts are directed at preventing the spread of the disease through injections of human immune globulin and rabies vaccine.

While neighborhood dogs are unlikely to be rabid, they may still cause serious injuries if they are not properly trained and are allowed to roam free. Loose pets can also cause traffic accidents by running into the road, and a personal injury attorney may file a lawsuit against their negligent owners on behalf of those who have suffered injury, loss or damage as a result. This litigation could seek compensation for the medical costs, property damage and lost income of accident victims.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, "Rabies in the U.S. and around the World", accessed on Dec. 5, 2015

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