One of the first pieces of advice given to any victim of an animal bite is to have a test to make sure that they haven't contracted rabies, and this advice is certainly wise for those who have been bitten by a bat. The cases of rabies being transmitted to people from contact with bats are still very low, but because of the seriousness of the disease, it is always wise to carry out a test for the disease.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a serious viral infection that is generally transmitted from warm-blooded animals to people through bites. Although it is very rare, it is possible for the disease to be transmitted to people when rabid animals transfer saliva into the system of a person, by coming into contact with a wound or broken skin.
The disease itself can take between two and twelve weeks to incubate depending on the wound that the individual received and how much of the rabies virus was actually passed into the individual. Symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia and agitation, along with flu-like symptoms are typically seen in people who have contracted rabies. The disease is often fatal once symptoms of the condition begin to be displayed, and it is believed that only 8% of those who aren't swiftly immunized after exposure will survive when treated in hospital.
Do Bats Give Humans Rabies?
Although bats do have many beneficial and positive impacts on the ecosystem, they are the biggest culprit when it comes to transmitting rabies to humans. Historically the condition was largely transmitted to humans by dog bites, but effective immunization and management of the disease have made this a very rare occurrence in modern America. The vast majority of bats currently present in the United States are rabies free, and it is estimated that around one per cent of the bat population is actually a carrier of the rabies virus.
In terms of the bats that are submitted for testing by the authorities for rabies, the prevalence of rabies is higher at around six per cent, because it is more likely that people will come into contact with bats that are sick or injured. Fortunately, this low percentage means that the transmission of rabies to humans is still quite rare. However, anyone who is bitten by a bat, or has been in a room with a bat without noticing the animal should be checked for the presence of rabies. This is especially important in the case of young and elderly people because a bat bite is not something that everyone will notice.
What is Rabies Treatment Like?
When people report to their physician mentioning that they have been bitten by an animal, then it is very common to be tested for rabies. The problem is that the time to ascertain if rabies has indeed been contracted can leave the individual at risk. Whether the individual feels that the animal may have been rabid or not, one of the most important steps to take after an animal bite is to wash the wound thoroughly. This should be washed using soap and water under a running tap, and should be disinfected using antiseptic or alcohol if available. It is important that the wound is left open prior to medical examination.
Once the bitten individual has reported to a medical centre or hospital, they will usually be given an injection to help counteract the disease immediately. The injection will be one that contains Rabies Immunoglobulin, which should stop the disease from spreading through the individual's nervous system.
Following the injection of the Rabies Immunoglobulin, the victim will then be prescribed a course of vaccinations. The length and dose of this vaccine will depend on whether or not they have previously been vaccinated. These vaccinations are delivered through an injection into the shoulder.
Treatment After Symptoms Begin
For those people who aren't able to identify rabies, or are unable to get treatment prior to the onset of the rabies symptoms, it is almost always a fatal condition. In the majority of cases the individual will only be given treatment to be comfortable, although there are rare cases where individuals have survived by being placed into an induced coma.
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