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Rabies is a disease that is caused by a virus that infects the nervous system on entering the body. The virus attacks just mammals, and many domestic and wild animals are carriers of the virus. In the US, most domestic animals like cats and dogs, which carry the virus, are vaccinated against it. Therefore, the chance of getting the rabies virus from them is rather rare. But the same is not true for developing nations.
In the US, wild animals like skunks, groundhogs, raccoons, bats, foxes and badgers are carriers of the rabies virus, and you can get the disease if they bite or scratch you.
Rabies is a fatal disease if immediate treatment is not sought after being bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. The virus on entering the body undergoes a period of incubation. Then it starts moving along the nerves to the brain. When it reaches the brain, the person starts showing signs of the disease. At this point no treatment will be effective in curing the person. From the brain the virus then moves to the salivary glands.
The disease is extremely painful causing severe spasms of the muscles of the face, neck and back. The person can also show signs of aggression. In the final stages, the person usually dies of respiratory failure.
So, you are scratched by a wild mammal, it is in your best interest to immediately seek medical attention. However, make sure that the moment you are scratched, you wash the wound out thorough using soap and warm water. Then go to the emergency department of the hospital and inform the medical staff what happened. They will first give you immune globulin, followed by the rabies vaccination. The vaccination consists of 5 shots that have to taken over a certain period of time.
In the US, around forty thousand people get rabies vaccination every year because they have been bitten or scratch by wild animal, which may or may not be a carrier of the virus.
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