Brazil has third human rabies death in a year | Health

Rabies: the main host is the bat, but it can be transmitted by unvaccinated dogs.  It affects the neurological system and can kill up to 100% of those infected
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Rabies: the main host is the bat, but it can be transmitted by unvaccinated dogs. It affects the neurological system and can kill up to 100% of those infected

The Minas Gerais State Health Department (SES) confirmed the death of a 12-year-old indigenous girl diagnosed with human rabies. She had been hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the João Paulo II Hospital, in downtown Belo Horizonte, since the beginning of April. The death occurred last Friday.

This is the third death caused by human rabies in Brazil in 2022. The girl lives in an indigenous village, in a rural community in the city of Bertópolis, in Vale do Mucuri, Minas Gerais. She became ill after being bitten by a bat.

The other two fatal victims also lived in the same village. Zelilton Maxacali, 12, contracted the disease after being bitten by a bat. He died on the 4th of April. The other child, a 5-year-old boy, died on April 17. He had no symptoms of human rabies, but the SES decided to investigate “the death as such due to the geographical proximity of the occurrences and the habits of the community”.

The positive result came out on April 26. The case remains under epidemiological investigation to identify the circumstances of the contagion, as the child did not show signs of a bite or scratch by a bat.

A fourth possible human rabies case is under investigation. This is an 11-year-old girl, who presented nonspecific symptoms such as fever and headache. SES decided to investigate because she is related to the girl who died last Friday. While the results of the laboratory tests do not come out, the patient remains hospitalized in a clinical bed and her health condition is stable.

Human rabies: what it is, symptoms and treatments

Rabies is a serious acute viral infectious disease that affects mammals. When people are affected, the case is called human rabies. The disease is considered very serious, with a fatality rate of approximately 100%.

The disease is transmitted to humans through the saliva of infected animals, including dogs and cats, through biting, scratching or licking. Symptoms appear after 45 days of contact. According to the Ministry of Health, in children, the incubation period may be shorter.

The first signs of human rabies are:

  • General malaise;
  • Small increase in body temperature;
  • slimming;
  • Headache;
  • nausea;
  • Sore throat;
  • Numbness;
  • Irritability;
  • restlessness; and
  • Feeling of anguish.

These symptoms last from two to ten days. It then progresses to anxiety, increasing hyperexcitability, fever, delirium, involuntary, generalized muscle spasms, and/or convulsions, and finally paralysis. The period between the onset of symptoms and death varies from 2 to 7 days.

The diagnosis is made through the symptoms and clinical history of the patient. But confirmation need a laboratory test. After the onset of the disease, it is possible to start the treatment protocol for human rabies, based on the induction of deep coma, use of antivirals and other specific drugs. However, even with this support, most patients die. It is important to point out that not all rabies patients, even submitted to the protocol, survive.

Therefore, the best way to avoid the disease is to prevent it through vaccination and anti-rabies serum. Other forms of prevention include annual vaccination of dogs and cats, avoiding approaching stray animals and wild animals.

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