Rabies is caused by a virus that can infect mammals and spread to humans. The most common is that dogs are carriers, but all mammals, including bats, can carry the infection. The virus is transmitted via bites or if saliva from an infected animal enters via a wound.
The first symptoms of the disease may be milder, such as fever and headache as well as pain or sensory disturbance at the bite site. The virus then spreads via nerve pathways up to the brain and can cause confusion, aggression, paralysis and seizures. The reluctance to swallow water has led to the disease sometimes being called fear of water. If an infected person has developed symptoms, the disease is almost always fatal. The time from infection to disease symptoms can vary from a few weeks to months or even years. Bites centrally on the body where the nerve supply is good, such as in the face, can give a faster course of the disease than bites in, for example, a leg. Early treatment can prevent the infection from breaking out.
There is a risk of rabies in many areas around the world. The infection occurs in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia (with the exception of Japan), South and Central America.
Vaccination against rabies
Vaccination is recommended for people who are to work abroad with animal care, in nature conservation projects or in healthcare. Vaccination can also be considered for children who are to stay longer in risk areas. The need for vaccination is greater if you stay in areas where there is a long way to effective healthcare. The basic vaccination consists of two doses of vaccine given in the muscle of the upper arm at least one week apart. For optimal protection, preferably two weeks should pass after dose two. Should you be unlucky enough to be bitten, you should always seek medical attention immediately for treatment, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated or not. It is also important to avoid contact with animals on the trip abroad as far as possible even if you have been vaccinated. It is important that the wound is thoroughly cleaned immediately if you are bitten by an animal.
For longer-term protection, a refill dose can be given when at least one year has passed since the basic vaccination.