Hydrophobia or Rabies is mainly a zoonotic disease. Humans are occasionally affected. It is caused by a bullet shaped virus belonging to the rhabdoviridae family. It is spread mainly by dogs and bat when they attack humans. Any wild animal can be associated with this disease and the virus is present in the saliva and in the cornea of the affected. This virus is neurotropic, as it affects mainly the nervous tissues.
The incubation period is 21 days -2 years. It causes congestion in brain parenchyma, haemorrhage, destruction of neurons and edema. Clinical features include headache, fever, painful deglutination, muscle spasm, dyspnoea. The symptoms are provoked by taking water. Hence the name hydrophobia. Sometimes the patient runs away even at the sight of water. Photophobia, convulsions, paralysis leading to coma and death are common. This disease is 100% fatal. But what is more important is the patient remains conscious till death.
The virus traverses via peripheral nerves. So if bitten in face and hands, where there are large no of nerve endings the disease occurs fast. If bitten in cloth the disease occurs slowly.
Since the diagnosis is purely clinical, based on the classical march of the events, prevention is the only way to fight this disease.
Always immunize your pets
Don’t play or allow your children play with stray dogs
If attacked by an animal, cleanse the wound with running water and rush to hospital
Pre-expose prophylaxis BPL vaccines from sheep were used in olden days
Now human recombinant vaccines are used
5 doses at 0, 3, 7, 14, 30 th days are injected
But this vaccine starts to act only on 7 th day.
So, if you are sure bitten by a stray infected animal you should be administered immunoglobulin (one at the site of bite and another intramuscularly)
Once diagnosed, only supportive therapy to maintain vitals is the only possibility
September 28 is World Rabies Day, which promotes information on, and prevention and elimination of the disease