Rabies is an acute infectious viral disease resulting in acute encephalitis or meningoencephalitis that is almost always fatal in humans (1).
- the condition is caused by the rabies virus, of the lyssavirus genus, within the family Rhabdoviridae.
- several different rabies and rabies-like viruses have been found to be responsible but presentations are clinically indistinguishable
- Rabies virus - various strains found in terrestrial mammals worldwide (except for Australia, Antarctica, some islands), as well as bats in the Americas
- Australian bat lyssavirus- bats in Australia (some instances in several nearby islands)
- European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Bokeloh bat lyssavirus, West Caucasian bat virus – bats in European countries
- Khujand virus, Aravan virus, Irkut virus - bats in Asia
- Duvenhage virus, Lagos bat virus, Shimoni bat virus, Mokola virus, Ikoma lyssavirus - bats or unknown host, Africa (1)
- infection is usually via the bite or scratch of a rabid animal, most frequently a dog. In some parts of the world, other animals such as bats, cats and monkeys are important sources of exposure
- rarely, transmission of the virus has occurred through body fluids from an infectious animal coming into contact with an individual’s mucous membranes (1,2)
Greatest risk of contracting the diseases is seen in people living in endemic countries where control measures in dogs and wildlife and access to post-exposure prophylaxis are not in place. Children are at increased risk since they are more likely to approach animals without caution (1).
- dogs are the main transmitter of rabies virus to humans worldwide (99% of cases in humans)
- although bats are considered as reservoirs of rabies-like viruses than sources of infection in humans, people need to seek immediate medical attention due to the risk of acquiring rabies from bats (1,2)
Rabies is a notifiable human disease under the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 1988 (1)
- (1) Crowcroft NS, Thampi N.The prevention and management of rabies. BMJ. 2015;350:g7827.
- (2) Immunisation Against Infectious Disease - "The Green Book".Chapter 27 Rabies (November 2012)
Last reviewed 01/2018