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What is rabies and how do you catch it?
Rabies is a viral disease transmitted to humans usually by a bite or scratch from an infected animal, or through bodily fluids such as saliva coming into contact with the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin. It’s most often associated with dogs, but is also common in cats, cattle, monkeys, foxes and bats. While it can occur on all continents (apart from Antarctica), it is most commonly found in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America.
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Signs and symptoms
The virus attacks the nervous system, causing inflammation on the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms usually appear after three to 12 weeks.
• High temperature of 38°C or more
• Feeling anxious or unwell
• Difficulty swallowing or breathing
• Muscle spasms
• Frothing at the mouth
Once symptoms appear the disease is almost always fatal, but treatment, before this happens, is very effective.
It’s crucial to act quickly, apply first aid (see below) and then seek urgent local medical attention if a bite or scratch is sustained in any area with a risk of rabies, even if you’ve had a pre-travel rabies vaccination.
First-aid measures include:
• Thoroughly washing off saliva with soap and water
• Irrigating the wound with iodine solution or alcohol – this is very effective in removing the virus from the bite, providing it’s prompt and thorough
• Application of a simple dressing but avoid closing the wound if possible
Further vaccinations may also then be required, but if you have had a full course of rabies vaccinations you will require fewer additional vaccinations if bitten. You should also consider a tetanus vaccination.
Of course, the best solution is to have the Rabies Vaccination, but If you are not vaccinated, you must be aware of the risk and consider the following preventative tips:
• Don’t go near animals
• Don’t pick up animals, even if they appear to be tame or unwell
• Don’t attract strays with food or by being careless with litter
• Be aware of activities that may attract dogs, such as running and cycling
Pre-exposure rabies vaccinations are recommended for travellers, according to UK guidance. A full course consists of three vaccinations administered into the arm on day zero, day seven and day 21-28. When time is short, a rapid course consisting of three doses on day zero, day three and day seven is available. A fourth dose at 12 months is needed complete the course.
How long do rabies vaccinations last?
How long the rabies vaccination lasts depends on your exposure risk. A once-only booster can be considered a year after completing the primary course.
We took our 2 year old son in to see Dr O’Neill for a meningitis B vaccination recently. Due to shortages of the vaccine, we had been on a waiting list with a well-known high street pharmacist for months without knowing when they would get stock in. We came across Glasgow Medical Rooms who had the vaccination and we managed to get our son booked in the next day. The clinic was very smart and easy to access in the city centre too. Dr O’Neill was great at dealing with our toddler. It was a relief to get the jabs sorted so quickly and would highly recommend the service to others.”Mrs CrawfordInverclyde
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I would like to thank Dr O’Neill very much for her time today: I get the impression that she is a very caring professional, knowledgeable and reassuring, and that she makes explaining conditions crystal clear, which is exactly what is needed for an anxious patient like myself. The staff that I met were all extremely welcoming, well-groomed and helpful too. Add to this the very relaxing and beautifully scented ambience and it was really a truly positive and pleasant visit. Thank you.Linnea Blair
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