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Rabies: A Deadly Virus
Article first published in Vol. 14, 1996.
By Regine Boussy
Rabies, the Latin word for "madness," is a severe, acute viral infection of the central nervous system and is one of the most terrifying diseases known to man. All warm blooded animals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. It can be transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal or its saliva being introduced into a fresh scratch or similar skin break; it is rarely spread by other routes.
The incubation period, the time it takes for symptoms to develop after exposure to a rabid animal, can be as little as six days or as long as one year. Rabies symptoms are almost identical in both humans and animals. They include changes in attitude and personality, restlessness, abnormal sensation around the area of exposure, fever and loss of appetite. Most dramatic of all are the severe and painful throat spasms suffered on attempting to sallow or even upon viewing liquids. This fear of water is what gives the disease its common name, "hydrophobia."
Rabies is incurable if it attacks the brain before preventive inoculation. Symptoms rapidly progress, usually in a matter of days, and the victim dies from cardiac or respiratory failure. Diagnosis is possible only through autopsy.
Centuries before the birth of Christ, rabies was known in both animals and man. Cases were described with amazing clinical accuracy, even during the lifetime of Aristotle. Rabies has occurred in almost every part of the world, except Australia, were no case has ever been diagnosed. An anti-rabies vaccine was discovered in 1884 by Louis Pasteur, the great French bacteriologist.
- Scorned boy proves hero by catching mad canine El Paso Times 1929 article