Things to Know About Rabies

In a time after social collapse, it is likely that cities and other heavily populated areas will be abandoned by humans.  At the same time, rats and other animals that can carry rabies in any environment, can proliferate to dangerous levels.  Even though rabies is relatively well controlled at this time in population dense areas, it can become  a major health problem during and after a social collapse. Rabies is spread by the bite of an infected animal or human in the saliva. Once a human shows any of the symptoms of rabies, it is almost always fatal.


How is rabies transmitted?


Even though rabies is usually transmitted via a bite from an infected organism, it is also possible to get infected if the saliva from an infected organism gets into any other open wound.  The virus can also be transmitted to you if it comes into contact with mucous membrane such as those found in your eyes, nose, or mouth.

In the United States, rabies are usually spread most by raccoons, skunks, foxes, wolves, coyotes, cattle, dogs, cats, bats, and opossums, although any mammal can serve as a vector.  Since rabid bats are found in all 48 lower states, they are considered a key vector.  While it is possible for smaller rodents like mice, rats, chipmunks, gerbils, hamsters, or squirrels to become infected, they don’t usually live long enough to spread the disease because the rabid animal usually kills them even if they don’t consume the body.   No matter how hungry you are, or how fresh the carcass may seem, never consume a dead mammal if you aren’t sure of what killed it.  


Symptoms of Rabies


The symptoms of rabies can show up within days to 12 weeks of becoming infected. If you are bitten by any wild animal or other animal that is acting strange, it is very important that you seek immediate medical attention.  In addition, if you notice any human or animal acting strangely, it is best to exercise caution and do what you can to reduce the risk of being infected with rabies.  Without a question, after a major social collapse, you will need to be cautious with people and mammals that may be infected.  


In the first 2 – 12 days of noticeable symptoms, victims may feel like they have a mild case of the flu that gets progressively worse.  Progressive symptoms may include:


  • Headache-  Starts off mild then turns into a constant pressure. The pain will start either in the front or back of the head and move slowly the top of the head. The magnitude of the pain may vary during the day. A person will be sensitive to both sound and light and possibly feel dizzy.
  • Anxiety-  Rising heart rates, diarrhea, constipation, and a sharp burning pain in your chest.   Both humans and animals suffering from extreme anxiety may also begin to exhibit personality changes at this stage.   
  • Loss of appetite- This will progress until dehydration, organ failure or starvation occur.  Instead of starvation euphoria which can occur with other diseases, rabies can cause depression and a sense of helplessness.
  • Muscle spasms- These are very common with victims of rabies, and is caused by dehydration and electrolyte loss.  These muscle spasms are sometimes so strong and painful that it is impossible for the individual to move.
  • Confusion- Both humans and animals appear confused and unsure about what to do.  For example, normally nocturnal animals may be seen during the day, or wild animals may approach in a seemingly friendly manner.   
  • Agitation- This is an early symptom of rabies and shows up 10 to 15 days after contracting the disease.  Periods of feeling irritated, tensed, or confused may be mixed with manic episodes of extreme anxiety, dementia, uncontrollably high activity levels, and fear of simple things.
  • Fever- This rise in temperature may be accompanied by shivering, headache, and delirium.
  • Difficulty in swallowing- The victim of rabies has a feeling of an obstruction in their throat which traps food, water and saliva.  Reduction in ability to swallow increases the amount of saliva available to be transferred into a bite.  Eventually difficulty swallowing turns into a fear of water.  Throat spasms and other painful symptoms can occur even at the thought of drinking water.
  • Excessive salivation- As the virus multiplies, the salivary glands go into overdrive to increase transmission of the disease.   
  • Photophobia-  Fear of light and extreme sensitivity to it.
  • Hallucinations-  Victims of rabies may have auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations.
  • Nightmares and insomnia – Inability to sleep, and any rest time may be plagued by anxiety and nightmares.
  • Seizures- Victims of rabies may also have seizures as the virus gets into the brain.
  • Partial paralysis-  in human victims of rabies, paralysis of the face, hands, or vocal cords are common.


How Rabies Travels Through the Nervous System


Once rabies enters the body, it will continuously move towards the brain.  Once in the brain, it causes extreme inflammation which ultimately causes coma and death.  Here are some things to bear in mind about how rabies travels through the body and the progressive stages.  


  1. After the rabies enters the body, it will move towards the nearest part of the nervous system. If it happens to reach a nerve that is part of the central nervous system, it will take some time before it reaches the brain.  It is important to note that from the moment the rabies virus enters the body, it is able to evade and suppress the immune system while using the nerves as a vector to reach the brain.  
  2. The rabies virus can also enter peripheral nervous system and travel directly to the brain. The peripheral nervous system is defined as the part of the nervous system that is outside the central nervous system and comprises of the cranial nerves excepting the optic nerve, the spinal nerves, and the autonomic nervous system.


Treatment For Rabies


When you come into contact with an infected individual or saliva from one, there is no way to tell if the individual, is actually infected or if they have successfully transmitted the disease.  Waiting for symptoms to occur will remove a very small window that you have for not being killed by rabies.  This is why doctors recommend getting treatment and starting on vaccine shots for rabies immediately.  


  • Usually the first shot given is the rabies immunoglobulin. It is injected as close to the bite or entry site as possible.  The goal is to prevent the virus from getting into the nervous system.  
  • The rabies vaccine series prompts your body fight the virus in case it has moved past the initial infection site. Vaccine shots are given on days 3, 7, and 14 over the next two weeks.  If you previously received the pre-exposure vaccination, you will not need the immunglobulin.  Instead, the doctor will only give you post exposure vaccinations on days 1 and 3.


How to Avoid Getting Rabies


Following these steps now as well as during a major crisis can help you avoid getting rabies. If you do become infected, make sure that those around you know where to go to get help, and how to manage the situation.


  1. Vaccination- If you plan to travel in third world countries like Africa or India, get vaccinated. If you are concerned about a rabies outbreak during a major crisis, you can also get vaccinated now.
  2. Vaccinate your pets- This will protect them from catching and passing on rabies.
  3. Keep pets confined and under control-  If your pets do go outdoors, make sure they are always under your control and are supervised.
  4. Do not approach wild animals- Animals with rabies are less cautious and will approach you.
  5. Report stray animals to police or animal control- These city groups can capture and remove any animals seen running loose or freely roaming.
  6. Get to know and understand animal behavior. If you see symptoms of rabies in an animal, do not hesitate to report it to animal control or the police.  During a social collapse or other major crisis, you may need to decide whether or not to kill the animal in order to reduce the risk of it spreading rabies.
  7. Keep bats out of your home. Remember, they can transmit rabies without actually biting you.
  8. If you suspect a human is infected with rabies, and you must interact with them, wear gloves, face shields, and other protective gear that will prevent you from being bitten or coming into contact with saliva.  
  9. Wash the bite- Wash the bites or scratches for 15-20 minutes in hot soapy water and antiseptic iodine.  After washing out the wounds, go to a hospital for rabies treatment.  Unfortunately, there are no viable scientific studies to date to determine if anti-viral herbs can be used against rabies. If there are no hospitals or medical care available due to severe social collapse, it is worth a try; however be aware it can fail.  


In conclusion, rabies can be well controlled in the US, but in a time of social collapse, rabies can kill a large number of people.  Knowing the symptoms of rabies and seeking proper medical care can save your life.  It is also very important to know how to avoid rabies and prevent its transmission.


* A Scott Hughes original for FP!


** Feature picture by Pest Kill.

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