This is a disease that commonly occurs due to RABV virus. The most common symptoms of rabies are paralysis, hallucinations, and seizures. Additionally, you can get this infection through bat bites (in the United States) or dog bites (in Africa and Asia). If you get quickly vaccinated after exposure, this condition can be prevented. Otherwise, this condition can be fatal.

What is Rabies?

It is a health condition that a person can get through direct contact (such as broken skin, mucous membranes, nose, mouth, and others). It usually spreads to other people and pets in case they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. Furthermore, when you are bitten by a rabid animal or bat, this virus gets into the body. As a result, it moves slightly into the central nervous system and provokes neurological symptoms when this virus reaches the brain. Therefore, it may lead to death or coma.

In addition, about 59,000 people suffer from rabies in the entire world. However, this condition is rarely met in the United States, which is less than 3 people each year.

How Does Rabies Affect Your Body?

This infection travels from the wound to the brain over time. Check below the 4 phases of rabies:

  • Incubation – However, this virus can travel through your body for several weeks until it enters the nervous system. Usually, you do not notice any symptoms during this time and if you get a treatment in this phase, you may not get rabies.
  • Prodromal Phase – In this phase, this RABV virus goes to your brain and spinal cord provoking nerve damage. The prodromal Phase starts when the virus enters the nervous system. As a result, your body’s defense (immune system) begins to fight against it, which can lead to some flu-like symptoms. For example numbness, tingling, or pain in the affected area. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment to treat rabies during this phase.
  • Acute Neurological Phase – During this phase, a person experiences serious spinal cord and brain damage, which leads to certain unpleasant symptoms. Examples include aggression, seizures, and delirium. Other people may also experience paralytic rabies, which involves weakness and paralysis from the wound to the whole body.
  • Coma – This is the final stage of rabies infection and after a person enters a coma it leads to death.


The symptoms are different among people. Commonly, symptoms depend on the severity of the condition, certain existing health conditions, and others. Check some examples below:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Burning, itching, tingling, pain, or numbness at the bite wound
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In addition, check below some acute neurological symptoms of this health condition. Examples include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation and aggression
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tachycardia
  • Fast breathing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hydrophobia
  • Facial paralysis (facial palsy)
  • Delirium

There are certain symptoms that may occur if you experience paralytic rabies. Check some examples below:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Strange sensations
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Weakness

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any others, immediately contact your healthcare provider.


The common cause of this unpleasant condition is a bite of an infected animal. In bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes often is found rabies. However, pets such as cats and dogs also can get infected. In very rare cases, some people may get rabies from donated organs.


However, to diagnose most health conditions, you should wait for symptoms. However, this time once you have been scratched or bitten, you might have rabies and it is advised to contact a healthcare professional right away. Your doctor may also ask:

  • What kind of animal has bit or scratched you
  • How you got hurt
  • If it is possible to test or observe the animal

Furthermore, to test an infected animal it is required to be euthanized.

Check below some examples of tests that can confirm rabies:

  • MRI – A machine that takes pictures of your brain and spinal cord.
  • Blood Tests – This test is done to verify if you have any rabies symptoms.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Test (Lumbar Puncture) – Your physician will use a needle to take a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and it will be sent to the laboratory.
  • Skin Biopsy – This test is done to be transmitted to the laboratory to check for rabies symptoms. It occurs by collecting small samples of skin from the back of your neck.
  • Saliva Test


In any case, there is no approved treatment option available once you start experiencing any symptoms. Contact immediately your healthcare professional if you get scratched or bitten by an infected animal. In case you get bitten or scratched, it is recommended to wash thoroughly the wound with soap and water.

Additionally, your doctor may be your give you a series of vaccines that help to prevent the virus from provoking rabies.

Check below some medicines used in the rabies treatment:

  • Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG) – You will receive some shots around the wound that give you certain antibodies that can destroy the virus. Do not get this medicine if you are vaccinated before contact with a rabid animal.
  • Rabies Vaccine – You will receive shots for about 14 days that will teach your body how to destroy the rabies virus before it gets to your spinal cord and brain.

You can notice some side effects after rabies treatment. For example headaches, muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, pain, itching, or swelling at the site of application, and others. However, your healthcare provider may be able to help you to prevent or avoid side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there no cure for rabies?

No cure is available for rabies because the virus moves to your brain and it is protected by the blood-brain barrier. This is a protective layer of your brain and it keeps away toxins and other harmful substances from entering the brain. However, the experts do not know how this virus locks this barrier and medicines cannot get through. Discuss with your healthcare professional for more details.

How to prevent rabies?

Fortunately, this condition is preventable, if you do not notice any symptoms, you should receive a special vaccine that will destroy the virus.

Can you survive rabies?

Rabies is a treatable condition just before appearing of any symptoms. In case the virus reaches the brain, there is no effective treatment known. In such cases, this condition is roughly always fatal.

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