Human beings have always shared a valuable relationship with animals. However we have to take care of ourselves while being in the company of animals, because we have the capability of contracting diseases from animals.
All of us are familiar with the disease ‘Rabies’. It is a viral disease that is spread due to rabid dog bite. Though it is 99% true, Rabies virus can be spread by bats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, jackals, mongooses and other wild carnivores. The graph below depicts the different species of animals and birds which act as carriers of this virus depending on the location on the planet.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease, a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The virus is transmitted to humans through the saliva of rabid animals. It eventually spreads all over the human body. First of all, it takes about three to twelve weeks for an infected person to show noticeable symptoms. Secondly, symptoms start to occur once the virus attacks the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the brain. In the end, the acute impact on CNS may result in coma, or death of the patient within a week.
The disease is associated with diverse symptoms Such as hyperactivity, agitated behaviour, hydrophobia (fear of water), or aerophobia (fear of drafts or of fresh air). In such cases, death eventually occurs due to cardio-respiratory arrest. Another characteristic is gradual paralysis of the muscles which starts at the site of the animal bite or scratch.
Facts and Steps for the Prevention of Rabies:
Rabies is a 100% preventable disease. Despite this fact, thousands of people die due to Rabies virus each day, out of which 95% are from developing countries. Here, the major causes of fatalities are poverty to avail adequate treatment and unavailability of vaccines. India accounts for 36% of the deaths due to Rabies. In India, about 30-60% of these deaths occur in children under 15 years of age, which often go unrecognised and unreported.
Consequently, since 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), are working together to eliminate human deaths due to Rabies spread by dogs, by 2030. These organisations conduct free Rabies vaccination campaigns worldwide. This programme has succeeded in the vaccination of millions of animals, till date.
28th September is celebrated as the ‘World Rabies Day’ since the year of 2007. It is the death anniversary of Louis Pasteur. He invented the Rabies vaccine. The day is marked as a tribute to his contribution towards Rabies prevention and raises awareness about the existing and upcoming strategies to cure disease.
Research and development of drugs to cure Rabies patients is ongoing in various research laboratories all over the world. An article published in March 2018, by Subramanian Senthilkumaran et al., highlights experimental attempts by various Indian scientists. Heuffer et al. noticed the glycoprotein of Rabies virus bears homology with the snake toxin (venom). These results may provide refreshed therapies for Rabies patients, based on natural or modified molecules obtained from the snake venom.
In conclusion, such latest therapies can protect the animals and humans, from Rabies disease. Also, Rabies vaccination is crucial to prevent pet animals and people coming in contact with them from an infection.
Editor: Dr. Prajakta Dandekar Jain