How Long After Bite To Get Rabies Shot (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 72 hours

Rabies is a viral disease that can prove life-threatening if it is not treated immediately after exposure. It is caused by a virus, generally found in the saliva of animals like stray dogs, bats, raccoons, etc. These animals act as carriers of the viral vector. When a person is bitten or scratched by such an infected animal, the virus is transmitted into the body of the individual.

The rabies vaccine was developed as a measure to stop the progress of the disease. It is used to kill the virus and prevent the development of symptoms in the patient. Whenever an individual is bitten by any rabies-infested animal, he or she must take the vaccine shot.

How Long After Bite To Get Rabies Shot?

Doctors generally suggest that the rabies vaccine should be administered to the possibly infected individual as soon as he or she is exposed to the virus. It is best if the immune system of the individual remains a step ahead of the virus’s activation period.

The rabies vaccine is most effective if taken within a certain predetermined window of time. This is usually stipulated as a window of time spanning across the first 48 to 72 hours after the person is bitten by the rabid animal. Any further delay does not guarantee complete immunity from the virus and its symptoms.

However, one must also cognize that this is the general medical protocol followed in cases where the history of the animal is unknown. If the individual was bitten by a pet dog- one that is vaccinated and checked regularly- a rabies shot is unnecessary. The chances of such an animal having rabies are minimal if any. In such cases, one must simply clean and dress the wound.

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When the condition of the animal is unknown, it is best to lean on the side of caution. If the animal is domesticated and yet you suspect that it could be a carrier of the virus, take the vaccine. It is always prudent to take the rabies shot in these cases. The best way to approach a possibly rabid animal bite would be to notify and consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible. They will be able to guide the patient through the correct course of action.

In Summary:

Kind of BiteInoculation Window
Unknown Animal Bite48 to 72 hours after initial exposure
Known, Vaccinated Animal BiteNo rabies vaccine needed

Why Do You Have To Get The Rabies Shot So Soon After The Bite?

Like most other viruses, the rabies virus also has a long and variable incubation period. The incubation period refers to the time taken by a virus to remain dormant in the body of the host before showing symptoms and becoming active. Sometimes the incubation period for the rabies virus can last for up to 10 years after the initial exposure.

Thus, the individual bitten by a possibly rabid animal must take the vaccine as soon as possible to build his or her immunity against the disease. It is nearly impossible to stop the progress of the disease after the symptoms begin. These symptoms include fevers, muscle spasms, paralysis, lockjaw, etc. The individual will most likely succumb to the disease if he or she has not taken the rabies vaccine.

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The important fact to cognize is that the HRIG or Human Rabies Immune Globin vaccine is partly therapeutic. It is usually administered in 4 parts for those who have not been vaccinated for the disease before. Therefore, if it is taken before the activation of the virus, the chances of being affected by the disease are drastically reduced. The first 48 to 72-hour window is the best time to kill the dormant virus.

Even if the individual has not taken the vaccine immediately, it is important to get inoculated before the incubation of the virus ends. As it is difficult to ascertain when this will happen for each individual, it is considered best to take the vaccine as soon as possible. Receiving professional medical aid right after cleaning the wound is absolutely crucial in such cases. This is the only way to beat the disease.

Conclusion

Rabies is a disease that progresses rapidly once the symptoms set in. it is important to remain away from animals that might be potential carriers of the virus. If bitten or scratched, the person in question must mandatorily receive the rabies vaccine.

The general rule vis-à-vis the rabies vaccine is that it must be administered to the affected individual as soon as possible. The vaccine works best when the person is inoculated within 48 to 72 hours after exposure to the virus. Thus, if one suspects that the animal that bit him might be rabid, it is always better to get the vaccine shot as a preventative measure.

References

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/522613
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/354520a0