What is rabies?

Rabies is a rare but serious infection which is almost always fatal when symptoms appear.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 12th November 2018, 12:04 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 1:49 pm
It is usually caught from the bite or scratch from an infected animal
It is usually caught from the bite or scratch from an infected animal

It is usually caught from the bite or scratch from an infected animal.

Animals in the UK are not affected apart from a small number of wild bats.

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Rabies is a "zoonotic" infection of the brain and nerves.

Zoonotic means that the disease can be transferred from animals to people. It does not spread from human to human.

Symptoms usually appear between three and 12 weeks after becoming infected.

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, feeling unwell and in some cases discomfort at the site of the bite.

Other symptoms appear a few days later, including the signature sign of the disease - producing lots of saliva or frothing at the mouth.

Additional symptoms can include confusion, hallucinations, muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing or breathing and paralysis.

According to NHS Choices, the infection is almost always deadly once symptoms appear, but treatment before this is very effective.

There's also a vaccine for people at risk of being infected.

Travellers to rabies-affected countries are advised to avoid contact with dogs, cats and other animals wherever possible, and seek advice about the need for rabies vaccine prior to travel.

Public Health England (PHE) said that anyone who has been bitten, scratched, or licked by an animal in a country with rabies, or has had direct contact with a bat in this country, should take immediate action by washing the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water.

Meanwhile local medical advice should be sought without delay, even in those who have been previously vaccinated.

PHE said that a course of rabies vaccine is extremely effective at preventing the disease when given promptly after an exposure.

There are around 59,000 cases of rabies around the world each year.

The UK has been free of rabies since the beginning of the 20th century, with the exception of a rabies-like virus in a species of wild bat called Daubenton's bats.

There has only been one recorded case of someone catching rabies from a bat in the UK.

:: Information from Public Health England and NHS Choices