What Happens to a Person When They Are Infected with Rabies?

What Happens to a Person When They Are Infected with Rabies?

Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. It has been a longstanding concern for public health due to its severe and often fatal consequences. Although Rabies is not commonly spread, there have been recent reports of positive cases in animals in the USA. So with that reason, we are going to explain What Happens to a Person When They Are Infected with Rabies.

Rabies primarily spreads through the saliva of infected animals, often via bites or scratches. Animals like bats, raccoons, and dogs are common carriers of the virus. Globally, rabies continues to pose a significant threat, especially in regions with limited access to healthcare and preventive measures. 

What Happens to the Human Body After Infecting Rabies?

Rabies has a distinct and ominous progression through various stages. It is easy to understand What Happens to a Person When They Are Infected with Rabies when you know what happens in each stage 

The Prodromal Phase

There is an incubation period before symptoms manifest. This period can vary widely, ranging from a few days to several months. In this period it is challenging to predict the onset of symptoms. The first recognizable phase is the prodromal phase. During this stage, the infected individual may experience mild, nonspecific symptoms that can often be mistaken for other illnesses. These symptoms include:

  • Fever: Mild to high fever is common, indicating the body’s response to the viral infection.
  • Headache: Headaches can be severe and persistent, adding to the discomfort experienced.
  • Malaise: A general feeling of unwellness and fatigue.
  • Discomfort: General discomfort, muscle aches, and overall unease.

These early symptoms can be easily overlooked, as they mimic those of other common illnesses. However, it’s essential to recognize that these initial signs are indicative of the virus’s presence in the body.

The Acute Neurological Phase

In this stage, rabies brings to host more severe and distinctive symptoms. During this phase, the virus attacks the central nervous system, leading to a range of neurological disturbances. Some of the hallmark symptoms of the acute neurological phase of rabies infection include:

  • Hydrophobia: A characteristic fear of water develops due to painful throat spasms that are triggered by swallowing, even of saliva.
  • Agitation: Individuals may become highly agitated, restless, and anxious.
  • Confusion: Confusion and disorientation can intensify, leading to difficulty recognizing familiar people and places.
  • Hallucinations: Visual and auditory hallucinations can occur, exacerbating mental and emotional distress.
  • Aerophobia: Individuals may exhibit a fear of drafts or moving air due to the discomfort caused by air movement on the hypersensitive skin.

Progressive Neurological Deterioration

The most harrowing aspect of rabies infection lies in its relentless progression. The acute neurological phase leads to a cascade of symptoms that gradually worsen. Paralysis starts to set in, beginning from the area near the site of the initial exposure, such as a bite wound. Muscle spasms, known as myoclonus, become increasingly pronounced, and the infected person experiences difficulty in swallowing due to spasms in the throat muscles. This combination of symptoms ultimately leads to a state of paralysis and inability to perform even basic motor functions.

In some cases, the human body may experience hypersensitivity to light and loud noises, adding to their discomfort. 

As the virus continues its assault on the nervous system, the person’s cognitive function further deteriorates, ultimately leading to a comatose state.

How to Know If It Is Rabies or Not?

Diagnosing rabies requires specific tests, such as analyzing saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, or skin biopsies. However, due to the rapid progression of the disease once symptoms appear, diagnosing rabies post-onset is challenging. As a result, early recognition of potential exposure and immediate medical attention are crucial to prevent the virus from advancing to its later stages.

Treatment and Prevention

Regrettably, once symptoms of rabies appear, there is no cure for the disease. Hence, preventing rabies through vaccination and early intervention becomes paramount. In cases of exposure, thorough wound cleaning, administration of rabies immune globulin (RIG), and a series of rabies vaccine doses can halt the progression of the virus if administered promptly. Vaccinating both humans and domestic animals remains a crucial preventive measure against rabies.


The results of rabies infection are severe and can be fatal. By educating about the stages of infection, transmission methods, and preventive measures, we can contribute to reducing the impact of rabies.

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