The rabies virus has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the United States. Humans contract the virus through contact with the virus-laden saliva of an infected animal.
Bites and scratches are the most common means of transmission from animals (raccoon, skunk, bat, fox, cat, dog, etc.) to humans. Blood and other body fluids are less common sources of infection. The ONLY definitive test to detect rabies in an animal is to euthanize the animal, remove the head, and inspect the brain tissue for the virus.
No Known Treatment for Rabies
There is no known treatment for rabies, either in humans or in animals. The only course of action is a series of post-exposure vaccinations. While these shots are extremely effective if started within four days of exposure, they are very expensive. The rabies virus is 100% FATAL once a person starts showing signs of infection.
Controlling Rabies Through Vaccinations
The spread of the rabies virus can be controlled through both human and animal vaccinations. The vaccination protocol in animals 3 months and older consists of one vaccination, followed by a booster 1 year later. Boosters are then given every 1 to 3 years depending on local laws.
The pre-exposure vaccination in humans consists of a series of three intradermal shots given at days 0, 7, and 14 or 21. They are relatively painless and very effective in preventing infection. Side effects and adverse reactions are uncommon. A vaccinated person bitten by a rabies-suspect animal is still required to undergo a series of follow-up vaccinations.
Where to Get a Rabies Vaccination
Vaccines are available from health departments, private physicians, and some plasma donation centers. The cost of the obtaining a rabies vaccine varies depending on the source, and not all health insurance companies cover it. Therefore, it is advisable to compare the costs of the pre-exposure vaccine series.