A man who died from rabies last May has now been laboratory confirmed, according to the Rospotrebnadzor, or the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing.

Russia Image/CIA

The 49-year-old man from Lipetsk Oblast is believed to have contracted the lethal virus from his pet cat, according to a Medik Forum report (computer translated). He was bit by the cat, which left the house for several days prior to returning, while bathing him. It is suspected the cat contracted rabies from a rabid fox. A delay in rabies post exposure prophylaxis led to the demise of the man.

This is the second human rabies death in the region this year. Earlier, a teen girl died from rabies after getting bit by a puppy.

Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases can pass between species. Bird flu and swine flu are other zoonotic diseases.

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. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

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

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

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