In order to diagnosis rabies in humans, the CDC states that several tests are necessary before death. No single rabies blood test is sufficient in order for a diagnosis to be achieved. Tests will be performed on a person’s saliva, spinal fluid, and hair follicles from the nape of the neck in addition to the blood tests that are offered.
If a patient has been bitten by an animal and there is a chance that rabies exposure has occurred, then because of the serious nature of this virus, a treatment protocol may be initiated even if there isn’t a positive test.
What Are the Symptoms of Rabies in Humans?
If a rabies infection has occurred, then most people will begin to experience symptoms that are similar to an influenza infection. This includes a general feeling of being unwell, fever, headache, and muscle aches. There may also be a sore throat, severe pain at the bite site, nausea, and vomiting. These are first-stage symptoms.
In 4-10 days, second-stage symptoms begin to occur. This includes confusion, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, paralysis, excessive saliva production, and an intense fear of water. Spasms in the throat and pain while swallowing are almost always seen during disease progression. In most cases, the individual must receive treatment before symptoms are experienced for it to be effective.
How To Prepare For the Rabies Blood Test
If an animal has bitten you or someone you know, then seek immediate medical attention for the wound that has occurred. Your doctor will need to know about the circumstances of the injury as well. Expect certain questions to be asked, such as what animal caused the bite, if it was a wild animal, and what the animal’s behaviors were like before it caused a bite.
Sometimes immediate medical attention may not be available. In this circumstance, wash the wound gently and thoroughly with soap and water. This may be able to wash the virus away before it enters the bloodstream.
If you are attempting to contain or capture the animal which caused the bite, avoid harming the animal in the head. This trauma may affect rabies testing results on the animal and may cause a rabies protocol to be initiated even when it may not be necessary.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
When the rabies virus is present, your test results will be positive. It may be positive in some tests, but not in others. It may also be positive in all tests if an infection is severe enough. Any positive test will generally start a treatment protocol. A small number of people have survived a rabies infection without treatment, but this virus will usually cause fatal results. This is why even the threat of an exposure should be evaluated by a doctor.
If the results are positive, then the treatment generally involves receiving a series of shots that will prevent the infection from taking hold. Rabies shots include a fast-acting shot to prevent the infection, called the rabies immune globulin. This injection will take place near the area of where the bite occurred as should be administered as soon as possible after the bite.
Then a series of rabies vaccines will be given to help the body be able to identify the rabies virus and work on eradicating it. Receiving these shots in the abdomen, as some may believe, is very uncommon. A positive rabies blood test result will typically cause a person to receive 4 injections in their arm over a 14 day period.
If the rabies blood test is negative, this may not necessarily mean the virus was not transferred. If the animal which caused the bite cannot be found, then it may be safer to simply assume that the animal was infected so the treatment course can do its job. If the animal was a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal that could be caught, then a monitoring period of 10 days can help to determine if an infection is present.
If not, then there would not be a need to take the shots.
Bats, skunks, woodchucks, and raccoons are all high-risk animals, as are wild dogs, coyotes, foxes, and wolves. Domesticated animals can become infected if they are bitten by a high-risk animal.
Rabies is a serious disease that often leads to a coma and then eventually death if left untreated. For this reason, the rabies blood test results may be considered secondary information if there is not enough information about the biting animal available.