First of all, not only dogs but bats and wolves also sometimes harbor contagious viruses of rabies. These bullet shaped viruses are unable to penetrate the skin of the victim on their own so when a rabid animal bites someone these viruses present in the saliva of the infected animal enter the body of the victim through the wound. However, it is not impossible for these viruses to penetrate thin and soft skin. So if an animal like wolf takes shelter in a cave inhabited by a colony of bats, some of whom rabid, then the viruses enter the wolf’s bloodstream through internal membrane of its nose in the course of respiration and infect it. Human beings generally do not go in such caves and so avoid coming in contact with infected bats.
However, it is the man’s faithful friend, dog, who is primarily responsible for infecting people with rabies. One may believe it or not but pariah rabid dogs bite 2,500 people in India every year! (In all about 7,00,000 people are bitten every year by street dogs). Although 1,500 rabies treatment centers in the hospitals all over the country save most of the victims by prompt treatment through injections, more than 1,000 persons have died from rabies for want of adequate treatment in the last few years.
Injections are ordinarily given around navel because a complete course of treatment takes 14 days or 21 days in some cases. For adequate treatment one (very painful) injection daily without fail is essential. Only abdomen has sufficient muscular area for so many injections on different spots. Hence, injections are given on the stomach. If there is delay in treatment or if it is left incomplete, it may cause horrible death of the patient because no other disease is as painful as rabies.
Words can not describe the pain caused by rabies, still this is what happens: Viruses of rabies always attack nerves of the patient. They concentrate in brain and spinal cord and disrupt their functioning. As these organs lose control over muscular system, body goes in spasms. Patient becomes rowdy. Muscles of throat constrict and block food canal – so much so that neither food nor water can be swallowed. The patient can not bear to see water or hear the sound of water running out of tap. Pain and fear of strangulation of throat due to involuntary constriction of the muscles caused by mere sight of water drives unbearably thirsty victim insane. For this reason the disease of rabies is called hydrophobia in medical terminology. (In Greek language Hydro = water, and phobia = fear). Word rabies is from Latin language, meaning frenzied rowdiness.
In the past this disease was incurable. Nobody survived after being bitten by the rabid dog, wolf, or bat. Louis Pasteur (photo, above) of France invented vaccine against rabies and for the first time on July 6, 1885 saved life of a 9 year old boy names Joseph Meister. Meister had been repeatedly bitten by rabid wolf; still the treatment of anti-rabies vaccine was successful. Following this incident, other countries of the West also started manufacturing this vaccine.
Nowadays, the patients have to take only four injections of newly invented anti-rabies vaccine on the shoulder instead of navel.