Essay by Lollygagers15Middle School, 6th gradeA, September 2004

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Rabies is a contagious infection that affects the central nervous system and is caused by a virus called Rhabdovirus. This virus enters the body through the bite of an animal that has been infected with rabies. Although many mammals can carry this virus, it is most prevalent in dogs, skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons, and cats. The virus usually lives in the nerve cells and glands of the host or carrier of the disease. Rabies can also be carries in the salivary glands for long periods of time.

There are two ways that rabies symptoms appear, dumb and furious. Both can cause abnormal behavior. Immediately prior to death, animals with furious rabies will appear to be 'mad': frothing at the mouth and biting anything that gets in their way. They may show extreme excitement and attack stationary things or animals. Bouts of furious rabies usually alternate with periods of depression. In dumb rabies, there is no 'mad' period.

With dumb rabies, paralysis, usually of the lower jaw, and a drooping head are the first sign of the disease. The paralysis quickly spreads to limbs and vital organs and death quickly follows. Animals with dumb rabies may become depressed and retreat to isolated places. Some may appear 'tame', having no fear of humans.

Following a bite or wound of a rabid animal, the incubation period for human beings ranges from 21 days to 120 days, with an average of 28 to 42 days. After the incubation period, some symptoms of rabies are pain, burning, or numbness. The infected victim can complain of headaches and be extremely restless. Depression and anxiety are also quite common. Muscle spasms can make the throat feel full and swallowing very difficult. This is the only the first stage of the disease. This stage usually lasts for a...