Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 10:05 am

With a reported outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal, it’s important to know what to do if you have been exposed to rabies

There is only a short window of opportunity to seek medical help before rabies becomes almost invariably fatal. However, research has found that people wait an average of 10 days before seeking medical advice.

Symptoms can take weeks or years to appear

Symptoms typically take two to three months to appear but can develop in as little as a week – following severe bites to the head – or up to several years after exposure.

“Preventive treatments are 100% effective if given promptly after exposure,” says co-author Dr Kevin Brown, Head of Rabies and Immunoglobulin Service for Public Health England. “That’s why seeking prompt care is so important, even if the wound or incident seems very trivial.”

He says that if you are bitten, scratched, or licked by an animal you must wash the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water and seek medical advice without delay.

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What is rabies?

Rabies is a zoonotic infection (a disease that spreads from animals to humans) that can cause a rare but life-threatening infection of the brain and nervous system in humans.

It usually results from a bite, scratch, or lick from an infected animal.

The virus is estimated to kill around 59 000 people every year worldwide, most often as a result of a bite from a rabid dog in parts of Africa and Asia.

How is rabies treated?

People who believe they may have been exposed to rabies are advised to immediately seek treatment which involves a series of rabies vaccinations with or without immunoglobulin, an antibody treatment that gives immediate short-term protection while the vaccines start to work.

Source: European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases via

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.