Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | 19:42 WIB

Beware of rabies all around us

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Jakarta, IO – The Ministry of Health recently reports that 26 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces are endemic with rabies, leaving only 11 rabies-free: Riau Islands, Bangka-Belitung, Special Capital Region of Jakarta, Central Java, Special Region of Yogyakarta, East Java, West Papua, Papua, South Papua, Central Papua, and Highland Papua. The public’s awareness about immediately getting medical aid when bitten by a dog or other rabid animal, and about vaccinating their beloved pets, remains low. This is why rabies cases continue to crop up in our Motherland. 

According to the Ministry of Health, 31,113 rabies cases have been recorded, up to April 2023. Of these, 23,211 sufferers have since been given anti-rabies vaccine, with only 11 dying of the disease. 95% of rabies cases in Indonesia are caused by dog bites, with the remaining 5% originating from the bit of other mammals such as cats, monkeys, raccoons, squirrels, skinks or bats. The latest case occurred on Sunday (11/6/2023), involving female toddler Kadek Riska Ariantini from Buleleng, Bali. Her death was reported as caused by the bite of a rabid family dog. 

According to the Indonesian Pediatricians’ Association (Ikatan Dokter Anak Indonesia–IDAI), 40% of rabies sufferers are victims of lesions, as they love to play with animals, especially their family pets. Therefore, other than bites, parents should be wary of the virus’ infection through licks, scratches, or pawings. The good news is that rabies is actually curable…if you treat it quickly and properly. 

dr. Wariyah, Sp.S
dr. Wariyah, Sp.S (Source: PRIV. DOC)

“As soon as you have freed yourself from the bite, wash the wound using soap and running water for 10- 15 minutes, and call your doctor immediately. If you bleed from the bite, cover the injury with a piece of clean cloth or gauze that’s been sprayed with sanitizer. Remember, 95% of cases are caused by dogs infected with the Lyssavirus that causes rabies.

The virus may also enter your body through open wounds or a lick that directly touches your mucous organs, such as your eyes or mouth. Once the virus enters the body, the rabies will pass through five stadia: incubation, prodromal, acute neurological pain, and a coma, which will result in death,” warned dr. Wariyah, Sp.S, member of the the Indonesian Neurological Association (Perhimpunan Dokter Spesialis Saraf Indonesia–Perdossi) and nerve specialist from the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital, Jakarta, in the “Beware, Rabies Is All Around Us” live IG session on Wednesday (21/6/2023). 

After the bite, the incubation period may last 20-60 days, with initial symptoms being listlessness, fever, headaches, nausea and/or vomiting, and insomnia. “These will be followed by sensory symptoms like a great itch or pain around the bitten area. If left alone, the virus will attack the central nervous system and cause the patient to suffer from a fear of water, open space, and light. This might deteriorate into a coma, which is nearly always fatal,” dr. Wariyah said. 

Anti-Rabies Vaccine 

As part of the rabies treatment, the patient is administered with anti-rabies vaccine, as quickly as possible. This is meant to generate passive antibody before the body actively creates its own antibody. The vaccine is administered 4-5 times if the person has never had rabies vaccine, and twice if they have been vaccinated against it before. 

“However, there is no cure for rabies. We only provide supporting therapies. Therefore, it is extremely important to avoid infection by staying away from dogs or other pets that show characteristics of rabies infection,” dr. Wariyah emphasized. 

Read: New high-res CT scan for better, earlier detection

Please remember the following characteristics of a dog or other mammalian pet who suffer from rabies infection: First, their behavior tends to be aggressive and difficult to control. They will attack, vocalize, attempt to bite or gnaw, and run without any reason or provocation. Second, their voices change when barking or growling. They might even completely lose their ability to vocalize. Third, saliva and/or foam flows out of their mouths. Fourth, they prefer to hide in dark and cool spots out of fear of light, water, and sound. Fifth, they look weak, they suffer from spasm, and they lose their appetite. In dogs, their tails will flop between their hind legs. And sixth, rabies-infected animals may seem either extremely aggressive or too tame and subdued. (est)

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