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The risk of rabies after a dog bite

Since 1961, the Mississippi State Department of Health reports that there have been no reports of dog-to-human transmission of rabies. However, the risk still remains.

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system and can be fatal without prompt treatment. Everyone should understand the risks associated with rabies from a dog bite.

What is rabies?

Rabies primarily transmits through the saliva of an infected animal, often through bites or scratches. Dogs are a common carrier, but other mammals, including bats, raccoons and foxes, can also transmit the virus.

The virus attacks the brain. It first manifests similarly to the flu with fever, headache and weakness. Eventually, it progresses to cause neurological symptoms, such as abnormal behavior. Once symptoms progress to this point, it is almost always fatal.

What should a person do after a dog bite?

If bitten by a dog, an individual must take immediate action to reduce the risk of rabies transmission. The first step is to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes. This helps minimize the chance of infection and removes any saliva that may contain the virus.

The next step is to seek medical attention. Healthcare professionals can assess the severity of the wound and recommend appropriate treatments. They can evaluate the risk of rabies transmission and administer post-exposure prophylaxis if necessary. PEP involves a series of rabies vaccinations that are highly effective in preventing the onset of rabies if administration is soon after a potential exposure.

It is also critical to report the dog bite to local animal control authorities. They can assess the risk of rabies in the offending dog and take appropriate actions to protect public health.

While rabies is a serious concern, it is important to note that not all dog bites lead to rabies transmission. Taking prompt and appropriate actions after a dog bite significantly reduces the risk of infection. Additionally, practicing responsible pet ownership, such as keeping dogs up-to-date on vaccinations, can prevent the spread of rabies in the community.


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