Preventing Human Rabies Before and After Exposure

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Rables is a vital disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Recently, most human deaths from rables have been caused by transmission from bats, in many cases without a documented bite or exposure. Rables is fatal if untreated prior to onset of symptoms. Deaths from human rables in the United States are rare, largely because of animal control measures and postexposure prophylaxis of people who have been bitten or exposed to the virus. Primary care providers play a pivotal role in the prevention of rables. Preexposure prevention involves education and immunization of persons at high risk for rables exposure. Rabies is difficult to diagnose antemorem because of the nonspecific presentation of signs and symptoms that may mimic those of respiratory or abdominal infections. Diagnosing rables once symptoms begin will not save the victim's life but will help to minimize exposure to others, allow for identification and prophylaxis of those who may have been exposed, and identify the animal vector.

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