Learn about why some people are afraid of water when they are infected by a virus. This and much more will be covered in this lesson on the Rhabdoviridae virus family, its structure and its mode of transmission.
The Rhabdoviridae Virus Family
There are many people who are afraid of water. They have plenty of reasons for it as well. Sharks, jellyfish, poisonous snakes and all sorts of other things are out there that may end up hurting you pretty badly, not to mention the possibility of drowning. So, what in the world does a viral family, the Rhabdoviridae family, have anything to do with the fear of water? You'll soon find out as we explore this family's structure, methods of transmission and most famous disease.
Rhabdoviridae Structure and Transmission
This family has viruses of a medium size that have a negative-sense, single-stranded RNA genome. They have a helical capsid that is encased in an envelope. Their appearance, in general, is described as being bullet-shaped.
The main virus we will be talking about in this lesson is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. However, there are other ways to get this virus. For example, if virally contaminated material comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as those in your mouth or even in those of your eyes or nose, then you may still get infected. In addition, this virus may in some rare cases be transmitted through aerosolized particles as well.
The Rabies Virus and Hydrophobia
So, the most famous disease affecting humans that is caused by this viral family is known as rabies, which is a disease caused by the rabies virus that will cause insomnia, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing and certain death. In fact, this virus is so deadly that there are only a handful of cases in all of history of a person beating the rabies virus after the neurological symptoms associated with it have begun.
In addition, when people are affected by the neurological signs of rabies, they experience difficulty swallowing and muscle spasms in the throat when they try to swallow. Hence, since you need to swallow in order to drink water, these people begin to fear water, as the sight of it causes even more painful spasms. The fear of water these people experience is more technically known as hydrophobia, where 'hydro' means water and 'phobia' means fear.
This virus and its terrible symptoms spread mainly through the bite of an infected animal. Once an animal secreting this virus out of its salivary glands bites another animal, the virus will travel from the site of the bite into the local nerves and go all the way up to the brain. Once in the brain, it will multiply and move down into the salivary glands in order to infect another unwitting host, such as a person, during a bite. With that in mind, if you ever get bit by an animal, especially a wild animal, then you must immediately seek medical attention. Your doctor will assess the risks of you having been infected with rabies.
The one saving grace about rabies is that it is a relatively slow-working virus, so to speak. This means that the virus may take years to show any clinical signs. However, it more typically begins to affect an infected person weeks to months post-infection. Regardless, even this is enough time to save your life if immediate action is taken.
If a rabies vaccine, first created by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, is given to you soon enough, your body will have enough time to develop antibodies to the virus, killing it off before the virus takes over your nervous system and kills you outright instead. Getting a post-exposure vaccination soon enough after the bite results in a near 100% survival rate.
It's also critical to vaccinate your pets against rabies. This is because, world-wide, the number-one way by which people get rabies is through the bite of an infected, rabid dog. But, don't blame the hounds; there are plenty of other animals, such as cats, bats and raccoons, that can transmit rabies to a human.
Now you know why rabies causes fear of water, or hydrophobia - because when people are affected by the neurological signs of rabies, they experience difficulty swallowing and muscle spasms in the throat when they try to swallow. Since you need to swallow in order to drink water, these people begin to fear water, as the sight of it causes even more painful spasms. Thankfully, this bullet-shaped virus has a vaccine, first created by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, that can result in a near 100% survival rate if given early enough. That's a really good thing because rabies is a disease that is caused by the rabies virus that will cause insomnia, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing and certain death if left untreated.
After this lesson, you'll be able to:
- Describe the structure of the Rhabdoviridae virus family
- Identify the signs and symptoms of rabies
- Summarize how rabies is transmitted
- Explain the mortality rate associated with rabies and how it can be treated