About Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic (transmitted to humans from animals) disease that causes acute encephalitis .It is caused by a virus. Rabies infects animals (domestic and wild) and is spread to people via infected saliva.

Rabies is always fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe signs and symptoms. All over the world more than 55 000 people die of rabies each year. Majority of human deaths (About 95%) occur in Asia and Africa. About 31 000 people die from dog rabies in Asia each year.

The rabies virus is the type species of the Lyssavirus genus of the Rhabdoviridae family. It has a cylindrical morphology and are enveloped and have a single stranded RNA genome with negative-sense.

Patients develop malaise, headache and fever as early symptoms of rabies and later develop violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, hydrophobia and finally death due to respiratory failure.

Dogs are most likely to infect people in Sri Lanka. But Rabies infections from other mammals like cats, mongoose, jackals and bandicoot also had occurred.

In Sri Lanka 20 to 30 deaths occurs annually due to rabies and mainly due to exposure to infected Dogs. The main reasons for deaths in Sri Lanka are non-vaccination of dogs against rabies and not getting post exposure treatments. If treated properly immediately after infected animal bite it is 100% preventable and post exposure vaccine and serum freely available at government hospitals.

Annual rabies vaccination of All Dogs above six weeks is recommended by Sri Lankan rabies control authorities. Rabies control measures launched in Sri Lanka since 1975 have had a tremendous effect on the incidence of human rabies. The number of human rabies deaths declined from 377 in 1973 to 19 in 2014. Table 1 shows reduction of human deaths in Sri Lanka from 1972 to 2013.