If you’ve been bitten or scratched by a dog, rodent or any other animal capable of transmitting rabies in North Carolina, you should be aware of how rabies progresses. After all, rabies is extremely serious, and can even prove fatal if untreated.
The rabies virus has three stages, each of which has various durations and symptoms. But treating rabies promptly is vital, as once specific symptoms manifest, death is almost inevitable. This is why you should treat dog attacks or any encounter with a mammal resulting in a bite or scratch with such caution.
The initial phase
Before any symptoms manifest, rabies incubates for anywhere from 30 to 90 days on average. However, cases of shorter incubation periods have existed, as have incubation periods of years.
During the incubation period, a person won’t show any outward signs of infection. Still, the virus is active. This is when rabies can be treated, but you won’t necessarily have any signs of infection to alert you.
After the incubation period, symptoms will begin to manifest. These symptoms result from the virus entering the nervous system, and at this point, modern medicine can’t treat rabies.
Symptoms may start as a fever, headaches, chills, a sore throat, fatigue or several other signs. These will usually last around two to 10 days, increasing in intensity.
The final phase of rabies is called the acute neurologic period, and will take one of two forms. The first is known as furious rabies, in which a person will experience confusion, hallucinations, seizures and other massively disruptive symptoms.
The second form is paralytic rabies, in which a person experiences a gradual weakening of the muscles. Both forms inevitably result in death within a period of days to hours.
The incubation period of rabies allows you to get lifesaving treatment before the virus takes hold in the central nervous system. Once symptoms manifest, it’s already too late.