Dozens of human rabies deaths have been recorded in Vietnam sine the beginning of the year, mostly attributed to low vaccination rates in dogs and cats, according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Health.
Most of the 40 deaths this year have been reported people in the North. The Central province of Nghe An has five cases, next are the northern provinces of Hoa Binh, Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa, Lai Chau and Hanoi, Saigon GP Daily reports.
Health officials say the rabies vaccination rates for dogs and cats is only 20% nationally. They are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths.
Most cases are in rural areas and health officials say when people are bitten by a rabid animal, they do not seek medical attention and post exposure prophylaxis.
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. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavy concentrations of bats.
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.
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. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.
Although worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 55,000 deaths due to rabies annually,human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages less than five human rabies cases annually.
Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.
For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page