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Testing, Treatment, and Care - Rabies

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Published on May 24, 2017. Last modified on June 01, 2017

In animals, rabies is diagnosed using the direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) test, which looks for the presence of rabies virus antigens in the brain tissue.  Animals must be euthanized to obtain suitable specimens for this test.  It is very accurate when fresh, intact brain material is available for testing.  In humans, several tests are required.

Once a person begins to exhibit signs of the disease, survival is rare.  To date less than 10 documented cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been reported, and only 2 have not had a history of pre- or postexposure prophylaxis.  All that can be done once symptoms begin is to make the patient as comfortable as possible until the disease runs its course.