When a stray dog bites anyone, the person usually fears that they could get rabies from the bite. Fortunately, there is a treatment for rabies or hydrophobia, which consists of a series of injections. When administered in time, these injections could easily prevent the spread of rabies in a human body.
Previously, a person bitten by a rabid dog had to be given 14 injections on the navel as treatment, and not on the biceps or buttocks. Nowadays, the patients have to take only four injections of newly invented anti-rabies vaccine on the shoulder instead of navel.
It’s not just dogs, either; bats and wolves also sometimes harbor the contagious viruses of rabies. These bullet shaped viruses are unable to penetrate the skin of the victim on their own, so when a rabid animal bites someone, the viruses present in the saliva of the infected animal enter the body of the victim through the wound.
However, it is not impossible for these viruses to penetrate thin and soft skin. So, if an animal like wolf takes shelter in a cave inhabited by a colony of bats, some of whom are rabid, then the viruses enter the wolf’s bloodstream through the internal membrane of its nose in the course of respiration and infect it. Human beings generally do not go in such caves and so avoid coming in contact with infected bats. Since humans don’t usually come into close or extended contact with either wolves of bats, we don’t usually associate rabies with such animals.
However, it is the man’s faithful friend, the dog, who is primarily responsible for infecting people with rabies. One may believe it or not, but pariah rabid dogs bite 2,500 people in India every year! (All in all, about 7,00,000 people are bitten every year by street dogs). Although 1,500 rabies treatment centers in the hospitals all over the country save most of the victims by prompt treatment through injections, more than 1,000 persons have died from rabies for want of adequate treatment in the last few years.
Cats may also contract rabies, but their instincts make them a relatively lower risk. They run from most other forms of wildlife, so it’s fairly unlikely for them to catch the rabies virus from an animal like a bat or wolf.
Treatment for Rabies
Injections are ordinarily given around navel because a complete course of treatment takes 14 days or 21 days in some cases. For adequate treatment one (very painful) injection daily without fail is essential. Only the abdomen has sufficient muscular area for so many injections on different spots. Hence, these injections are given on the stomach. If there is a delay in treatment or if it is left incomplete, it may cause a painful, as few other diseases are as painful as rabies.
Why Rabies is so Painful
Words cannot describe the pain caused by rabies; this because the rabies virus always attacks the nerves. They concentrate on the brain and spinal cord and disrupt their functioning. As these organs lose control over muscular system, the body goes into spasms and the patient becomes rowdy. The muscles of the throat constrict and block food canal – so much so that neither food nor water can be swallowed. The patient cannot bear to see water or hear the sound of water running out of tap. The pain and fear of strangulation due to involuntary constriction of the muscles caused by the mere sight of water drives the unbearably thirsty victim insane. For this reason, the disease of rabies is called hydrophobia in medical terminology. (In Greek language Hydro = water, and phobia = fear). The word ‘rabies’ is from Latin, meaning ‘frenzied rowdiness’.
Invention of the Rabies Vaccine
In the past, this disease was incurable. Nobody survived after being bitten by the rabid dog, wolf, or bat. Louis Pasteur of France invented vaccine against rabies. For the first time on July 6, 1885, the life of a rabies patient was saved. This was a 9 year old boy named Joseph Meister. Meister had been repeatedly bitten by a rabid wolf; still, the treatment of anti-rabies vaccine was successful. Following this incident, other countries of the West also started manufacturing this vaccine.