Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

After an incubation period of one to two months rabies presents with non-specific prodromal symptoms and often with paraesthesiae of the bitten area. As in canine rabies there are furious and dumb forms of the disease. In man, furious rabies is characterised by hydrophobia: terror and excitation with spasms of inspiratory muscles, larynx and pharynx precipitated by attempts to drink and by a variety of other stimuli. Hydrophobia may represent an exaggerated respiratory tract irritant reflex with associated arousal potentiated by the selective destruction of brain stem inhibitory systmes. Also typical of furious rabies are intermittent episodes of excitement, hallucinations and maniacal behaviour. Focal neurological abnormalities are surprisingly uncommon. Other signs include hypersalivation, tachycardia and hyperpyrexia. Paralysis and coma supervene after a few days: survival rarely exceeds seven days. Dumb or paralytic rabies is an ascending flaccid paralysis with sphincter involvement and sensory disturbances. Death from respiratory and bulbar paralysis occurs after a longer illness than furious rabies. In a minority of cases hydrophobia develops before the terminal coma. Complications include respiratory arrest, pneumonitis, cardiac arrhythmias and interstitial myocarditis, posterior pituitary disorders, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Differential diagnoses of furious rabies include hysterical pseudo hydrophobia, tetanus, other encephalitides, delirium tremens and various other intoxications. Paralytic rabies may have to be distinguished from postvaccinal encephalomyelitis, poliomyelitis and other causes of Landry-type ascending paralysis. Intensive care has produced some promising results: life-threatening complications can be prevented but there is some evidence that the severity of the encephalitis is the ultimate barrier to survival.


Journal article


Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg

Publication Date





188 - 195


Arrhythmias, Cardiac, Diagnosis, Differential, Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental, Humans, Prognosis, Rabies, Respiratory Paralysis, Spasm