ATLANTA, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Rabies exposure can vary and physicians should consider a diagnosis of rabies for any patient with unexplained progressive encephalitis, U.S. officials say.
Encephalitis is acute inflammation of the brain. Human rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease that is almost always fatal in unimmunized persons, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta say.
Prompt and thorough wound cleaning and administration of post-exposure prophylaxis as soon as possible after rabies virus exposure can eliminate the risk for rabies in nearly all cases, CDC officials say.
"Obtaining information regarding exposure to animals in the United States and during foreign travel is a crucial component of the medical history," the report says. "Continued public education regarding the risk for rabies after exposures to wildlife, particularly to bats, is needed. Healthcare providers are reminded to use personal protective equipment when the possibility of exposure to infectious body fluids exists."
The findings are published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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