In a follow-up to the human rabies outbreak in Serian District, Sarawak, Borneo, a fourth child from the district has been admitted to the hospital with suspected rabies.

Close-up of a dog's face during late-stage "dumb" paralytic rabies/CDC
Close-up of a dog’s face during late-stage “dumb” paralytic rabies/CDC

The Star Online reports, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the hospital was still waiting for test reports to confirm if the child was infected with the virus.

“The victim is currently under observation at the ICU together with the seven-year-old girl confirmed to have rabies a week ago,” she told reporters at the hospital.

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.

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.

Rabies infected animals 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.

LISTEN: Everything you wanted to know about rabies

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies 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. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

Worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually.

Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

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