Vietnam: Yen Bai province’s daily battle with rabies
Since the beginning of 2014, almost 1,900 people have been exposed to the deadly virus, and three people have died. The problem has affected all districts of the province. Health officials in the province say the number of people seeking rabies vaccination has increased every year.
Le Thi Hong Van, director of the provincial Preventive Medicine Centre, said that lack of awareness among some people, including the ethnic groups in remote areas, has had deadly consequences.
She cited the example of a 44-year-old man who was asked to go to the district medical centre for rabies vaccination after being bitten by an infected dog in March. He refused to go and instead took some medicine. He died a month later.
Although a relatively rare cause of death in the United States, 55,000 people die globally from this dreaded disease, mostly in Africa and Asia. That’s at rate of one person every 10 minutes.
And that shouldn’t be the case because rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt and appropriate medical care.
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.
According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.
Animals with rabies can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.
Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations.
For more information on rabies medical treatment, see the CDC Rabies website