Rabies (pronounced /ˈreɪbiːz/. From Latin: rabies) is a viral disease that causes acuteencephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic (i.e., transmitted by animals), most commonly by a bite from an infected animal but occasionally by other forms of contact. Rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms.
The rabies virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves. The incubation period of the disease is usually a few months in humans, depending on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system. Once the rabies virus reaches the central nervous system and symptoms begin to show, the infection is effectively untreatable and usually fatal within days.
Early-stage symptoms of rabies are malaise, headache and fever, progressing to acute pain, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, depression, and hydrophobia. Finally, the patient may experience periods of mania and lethargy, eventually leading to coma. The primary cause of death is usually respiratory insufficiency. Worldwide, the vast majority of human rabies cases (approximately 97%) come from dog bites. In the United States, however, animal control and vaccination programs have effectively eliminated domestic dogs as reservoirs of rabies. In several countries, including the United Kingdom and Japan, rabies carried by animals that live on the ground has been eradicated entirely. Concerns exist about airborne and mixed-habitat animals including bats. Bats in the U.K. and in some other countries carry European Bat Lyssavirus 1 and European Bat Lyssavirus 2. The symptoms of these viruses are similar to those of rabies and so the viruses are both known as bat rabies. An unvaccinated Scottish bat handler died from an EBLV infection in 2002.
The economic impact is also substantial, as rabies is a significant cause of death of livestock in some...