A Quarterly Publication          March 2010           www.dausettrails.com

The Wild About Rabies

Red Fox
Red Fox at Dauset Trails - does not have rabies.
    Have you ever wondered: "What is rabies?" or "Where did rabies begin?" Rabies is a viral disease that made history over 4,000 years ago and may be the oldest infectious disease known to man.

As early as 2300 BC in ancient Babylon, dogs were the carriers of this viral disease. Dog owners were fined for their pet's fatal bites. Around 100 AD, rabies became widespread across the Roman Empire, Greece and Crete. The Romans described saliva from a rabid dog as a virus - the Latin word for poison. Around 1703, rabies was reported in the Americas by a priest in Mexico.

From 1753 to 1768, rabies was discovered from Virginia to Boston and other North American towns. Fox and dogs carried the disease to farm animals. By 1789, rabies was common across North America.

Prior to 1960, most cases of rabies occurred in domestic animals. Today, 90% of rabies cases reported have been associated with wildlife like raccoons, skunks, bats, and fox. Domestic animals account for less than 10% of reported cases.


The word rabies gets its name from a Latin word rabere that means "to rage". The Greeks referred to rabies as frenzy or madness.

Rabies affects the brain and will cause dogs and other animals to become aggressive and possibly bite. Rabies travels through saliva, not blood. Once rabid saliva passes into a body, usually through a bite, the rabies virus attaches to a healthy nerve cell. The virus multiplies and attaches to other nerve cells traveling to the brain. Rabies can cause the brain to swell leading to paralysis or possibly death. The virus spreads quickly throughout the body and resides in the salivary glands. The salivary glands will overproduce saliva causing drool and "foaming" of the mouth.

Fever and headache are the first symptoms in humans. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, excitability, hallucinations, agitation, and difficulty swallowing. A less common symptom, hydrophobia (fear of water), was coined by the Greeks to describe human rabies. If not treated for rabies within days of the onset of symptoms, death may occur. Death from rabies has decreased from an average of one hundred to one or two per year. Those one or two deaths may have occurred from exposure unawareness or failure to seek medical treatment.

Wild animals should never act shy, tame or move slowly. This is not normal behavior for animals in the wild.

Some animals may act "mad" when they have rabies.

Never attempt to feed or approach a wild animal.

Never attempt to pet a stray dog or cat and if the animal is behaving strangely, call your local animal control.



SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sign up for the mailing list below:
Your E-mail: