Classification & external resources
Influenza, commonly known as flu, is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by an RNA virus of the family Orthomyxoviridae (the influenza viruses). In humans, common symptoms of influenza infection are fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. In more serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly in young children and the elderly. Sometimes confused with the common cold, influenza is a much more severe disease and is caused by a different type of virus. Although nausea and vomiting can be produced, especially in children, these symptoms are more characteristic of the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes called "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu."
Typically, influenza is transmitted from infected mammals through the air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols containing the virus, and from infected birds through their droppings. Influenza can also be transmitted by saliva, nasal secretions, feces and blood. Infections occur through contact with these bodily fluids or with contaminated surfaces. Flu viruses can remain infectious for about one week at human body temperature, over 30 days at 0 °C (32 °F), and indefinitely at very low temperatures (such as lakes in northeast Siberia). Most influenza strains can be inactivated easily by disinfectants and detergents.
Flu spreads around the world in seasonal epidemics, killing millions of people in pandemic years and hundreds of thousands in non-pandemic years. Three influenza pandemics occurred in the 20th century and killed tens of millions of people, with each of these pandemics being caused by the appearance of a new strain of the virus in humans. Often, these new strains result from the spread of an existing flu virus to humans from other animal species. Since it first killed humans in Asia in the 1990s, a deadly avian strain of H5N1 has posed the greatest risk for a new influenza pandemic; however, this virus has not mutated to spread easily between people.
Vaccinations against influenza are most commonly given to high-risk humans in industrialized countries and to farmed poultry. The most common human vaccine is the trivalent flu vaccine that contains purified and inactivated material from three viral strains. Typically this vaccine includes material from two influenza A virus subtypes and one influenza B virus strain. A vaccine formulated for one year may be ineffective in the following year, since the influenza virus changes rapidly over time and different strains become dominant. Antiviral drugs can be used to treat influenza, with neuraminidase inhibitors being particularly effective.
• Avian influenza
• Flu season
• Genome project
• H5N1 strain
The term influenza has its origins in 15th-century Italy, where the cause of the disease was ascribed to unfavourable astrological influences. Evolution in medical thought led to its modification to influenza di freddo, meaning "influence of the cold." The word "influenza" was first attested in English in 1743 when it was borrowed during an outbreak of the disease in Europe. Archaic terms for influenza include epidemic catarrh, grippe (from the French grippe, meaning flu; sometimes spelled "grip" or "gripe"), sweating sickness, and Spanish fever (particularly for the 1918 pandemic strain).
Negatively stained flu viruses; these were the causative agents of Hong Kong Flu. (magnified approximately 70,000 times)
The difference between the influenza mortality age-distributions of the 1918 epidemic and normal epidemics. Deaths per 100,000 persons in each age group, United States, for the interpandemic years 1911–1917 (dashed line) and the pandemic year 1918 (solid line).
The symptoms of human influenza were clearly described by Hippocrates roughly 2400 years ago. Since then, the virus has caused numerous pandemics. Historical data on influenza are difficult to interpret, because the symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases, such as diphtheria, pneumonic plague, typhoid fever, dengue, or typhus. The first convincing record of an influenza pandemic was of an outbreak in 1580, which began in Asia and spread to Europe via Africa. In Rome over 8,000 people were killed, and several Spanish cities were almost wiped out. Pandemics continued sporadically throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, with the pandemic of 1830–1833 being particularly widespread; it infected approximately a quarter of the people exposed.
The most famous and lethal outbreak was the so-called Spanish flu pandemic (type A influenza, H1N1 subtype), which lasted from 1918 to 1919. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people while current estimates say 50 million to 100 million people worldwide were killed. This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have killed as many people as the Black Death. This huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infection rate of up to 50% and the extreme severity of the symptoms, suspected to be caused by cytokine storms. Indeed, symptoms in 1918 were so unusual that initially influenza was misdiagnosed as dengue, cholera, or typhoid. One observer wrote, "One of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhage from mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestine. Bleeding from the ears and petechial hemorrhages in the skin also occurred." The majority of deaths were from bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenza, but the virus also killed people directly, causing massive hemorrhages and edema in the lung.
The Spanish flu pandemic was truly global, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. The unusually severe disease killed between 2 and 20% of those infected, as opposed to the more usual flu epidemic mortality rate of 0.1%. Another unusual feature of this pandemic was that it mostly killed young adults, with 99% of pandemic influenza deaths occurring in people under 65, and more than half in young adults 20 to 40 years old. This is unusual since influenza is normally most deadly to the very young (under age 2) and the very old (over age 70). The total mortality of the 1918–1919 pandemic is not known, but it is estimated that 2.5% to 5% of the world's population was killed. As many as 25 million may have been killed in the first 25 weeks; in contrast, HIV/AIDS has killed 25 million in its first 25 years.
Later flu pandemics were not so devastating. They included the 1957 Asian Flu (type A, H2N2 strain) and the 1968 Hong Kong Flu (type A, H3N2 strain), but even these smaller outbreaks killed millions of people. In later pandemics antibiotics were available to control secondary infections and this may have helped reduce mortality compared to the Spanish Flu of 1918.
Known flu pandemics
Name of pandemic Date Deaths Subtype involved Pandemic Severity Index
Asiatic (Russian) Flu 1889–1890 1 million possibly H2N2
1918–1920 40 million H1N1
1957–1958 1 to 1.5 million H2N2
Hong Kong Flu
1968–1969 0.75 to 1 million H3N2
The etiological cause of influenza, the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, was first discovered in pigs by Richard Schope in 1931. This discovery was shortly followed by the isolation of the virus from humans by a group headed by Patrick Laidlaw at the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom in 1933. However, it was not until Wendell Stanley first crystallized tobacco mosaic virus in 1935 that the non-cellular nature of viruses was appreciated.
The first significant step towards preventing influenza was the development in 1944 of a killed-virus vaccine for influenza by Thomas Francis, Jr.. This built on work by Frank Macfarlane Burnet, who showed that the virus lost virulence when it was cultured in fertilized hen's eggs. Application of this observation by Francis allowed his group of researchers at the University of Michigan to develop the first flu vaccine, with support from the U.S. Army. The Army was deeply involved in this research due to its experience of influenza in World War I, when thousands of troops were killed by the virus in a matter of months.
Although there were scares in New Jersey in 1976 (with the Swine Flu), world wide in 1977 (with the Russian Flu), and in Hong Kong and other Asian countries in 1997 (with H5N1 avian influenza), there have been no major pandemics since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu. Immunity to previous pandemic influenza strains and vaccination may have limited the spread of the virus and may have helped prevent further pandemics.
Types of influenza virus
Structure of the influenza virion. The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) proteins are shown on the surface of the particle. The viral RNAs that make up the genome are shown as red coils inside the particle and bound to Ribonuclear Proteins (RNPs).
The influenza virus is an RNA virus of the family Orthomyxoviridae, which comprises the influenzaviruses, Isavirus, and Thogotovirus. There are three types of influenza virus: Influenzavirus A, Influenzavirus B, and Influenzavirus C. Influenza A and C infect multiple species, while influenza B almost exclusively infects humans. The type A viruses are the most virulent human pathogens among the three influenza types and cause the most severe disease. The Influenza A virus can be subdivided into different serotypes based on the antibody response to these viruses. The serotypes that have been confirmed in humans, ordered by the number of known human pandemic deaths, are:
• H1N1 caused "Spanish Flu."
• H2N2 caused "Asian Flu."
• H3N2 caused "Hong Kong Flu."
• H5N1 is a pandemic threat in 2006–7 flu season.
• H7N7 has unusual zoonotic potential.
• H1N2 is endemic in humans and pigs.
• H9N2, H7N2, H7N3, H10N7.
Influenza B virus is almost exclusively a human pathogen and is less common than influenza A. The only other animal known to be susceptible to influenza B infection is the seal. This type of influenza mutates at a rate 2–3 times lower than type A and consequently is less genetically diverse, with only one influenza B serotype. As a result of this lack of antigenic diversity, a degree of immunity to influenza B is usually acquired at an early age. However, influenza B mutates enough that lasting immunity is not possible. This reduced rate of antigenic change, combined with its limited host range (inhibiting cross species antigenic shift), ensures that pandemics of influenza B do not occur.
The influenza C virus infects humans and pigs, and can cause severe illness and local epidemics. However, influenza C is less common than the other types and usually seems to cause mild disease in children.
Structure and properties
The following applies for Influenza A viruses, although other strains are very similar in structure:
The influenza A virus particle or virion is 80–120 nm in diameter and usually roughly spherical, although filamentous forms can occur. Unusually for a virus, the influenza A genome is not a single piece of nucleic acid; instead, it contains eight pieces of segmented negative-sense RNA (13.5 kilobases total), which encode 11 proteins (HA, NA, NP, M1, M2, NS1, NEP, PA, PB1, PB1-F2, PB2). The best-characterised of these viral proteins are hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, two large glycoproteins found on the outside of the viral particles. Neuraminidase is an enzyme involved in the release of progeny virus from infected cells, by cleaving sugars that bind the mature viral particles. By contrast, hemagglutinin is a lectin that mediates binding of the virus to target cells and entry of the viral genome into the target cell. The hemagglutinin (HA or H) and neuraminidase (NA or N) proteins are targets for antiviral drugs. These proteins are also recognised by antibodies, i.e. they are antigens. The responses of antibodies to these proteins are used to classify the different serotypes of influenza A viruses, hence the H and N in H5N1.
Infection and replication
Host cell invasion and replication by the influenza virus. The steps in this process are discussed in the text.
Influenza viruses bind through hemagglutinin onto sialic acid sugars on the surfaces of epithelial cells; typically in the nose, throat and lungs of mammals and intestines of birds (Stage 1 in infection figure). The cell imports the virus by endocytosis. In the acidic endosome, part of the haemagglutinin protein fuses the viral envelope with the vacuole's membrane, releasing the viral RNA (vRNA) molecules, accessory proteins and RNA-dependent RNA transcriptase into the cytoplasm (Stage 2). These proteins and vRNA form a complex that is transported into the cell nucleus, where the RNA-dependent RNA transcriptase begins transcribing complementary positive-sense vRNA (Steps 3a and b). The vRNA is either exported into the cytoplasm and translated (step 4), or remains in the nucleus. Newly-synthesised viral proteins are either secreted through the Golgi apparatus onto the cell surface (in the case of neuraminidase and hemagglutinin, step 5b) or transported back into the nucleus to bind vRNA and form new viral genome particles (step 5a). Other viral proteins have multiple actions in the host cell, including degrading cellular mRNA and using the released nucleotides for vRNA synthesis and also inhibiting translation of host-cell mRNAs.
Negative-sense vRNAs that form the genomes of future viruses, RNA-dependent RNA transcriptase, and other viral proteins are assembled into a virion. Hemagglutinin and neuraminidase molecules cluster into a bulge in the cell membrane. The vRNA and viral core proteins leave the nucleus and enter this membrane protrusion (step 6). The mature virus buds off from the cell in a sphere of host phospholipid membrane, acquiring hemagglutinin and neuraminidase with this membrane coat (step 7). As before, the viruses adhere to the cell through hemagglutinin; the mature viruses detach once their neuraminidase has cleaved sialic acid residues from the host cell. After the release of new influenza virus, the host cell dies.
Because of the absence of RNA proofreading enzymes, the RNA-dependent RNA transcriptase makes a single nucleotide insertion error roughly every 10 thousand nucleotides, which is the approximate length of the influenza vRNA. Hence, nearly every newly-manufactured influenza virus is a mutant. The separation of the genome into eight separate segments of vRNA allows mixing or reassortment of vRNAs if more than one viral line has infected a single cell. The resulting rapid change in viral genetics produces antigenic shifts and allow the virus to infect new host species and quickly overcome protective immunity. This is important in the emergence of pandemics, as discussed in Epidemiology.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Classification & external resources
The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS or Aids) is a collection of symptoms and infections resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans, and similar viruses in other species (SIV, FIV, etc.). The late stage of the condition leaves individuals susceptible to opportunistic infections and tumors. Although treatments for AIDS and HIV exist to slow the virus' progression, there is no known cure. HIV, et al., are transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk. This transmission can come in the form of anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.
Most researchers believe that HIV originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the twentieth century; it is now a pandemic, with an estimated 38.6 million people now living with the disease worldwide. As of January 2006, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized on June 5, 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.4–3.3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children. A third of these deaths are occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, retarding economic growth and destroying human capital. Antiretroviral treatment reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, but routine access to antiretroviral medication is not available in all countries. HIV/AIDS stigma is more severe than that associated with other life-threatening conditions and extends beyond the disease itself to providers and even volunteers involved with the care of people living with HIV.
Infection by HIV
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte.
AIDS is the most severe acceleration of infection with HIV. HIV is a retrovirus that primarily infects vital organs of the human immune system such as CD4+ T cells (a subset of T cells), macrophages and dendritic cells. It directly and indirectly destroys CD4+ T cells. CD4+ T cells are required for the proper functioning of the immune system. When HIV kills CD4+ T cells so that there are fewer than 200 CD4+ T cells per microliter (µL) of blood, cellular immunity is lost, leading to the condition known as AIDS. Acute HIV infection progresses over time to clinical latent HIV infection and then to early symptomatic HIV infection and later to AIDS, which is identified on the basis of the amount of CD4+ T cells in the blood and the presence of certain infections.
In the absence of antiretroviral therapy, the median time of progression from HIV infection to AIDS is nine to ten years, and the median survival time after developing AIDS is only 9.2 months. However, the rate of clinical disease progression varies widely between individuals, from two weeks up to 20 years. Many factors affect the rate of progression. These include factors that influence the body's ability to defend against HIV such as the infected person's general immune function. Older people have weaker immune systems, and therefore have a greater risk of rapid disease progression than younger people. Poor access to health care and the existence of coexisting infections such as tuberculosis also may predispose people to faster disease progression. The infected person's genetic inheritance plays an important role and some people are resistant to certain strains of HIV. An example of this is people with the CCR5-Δ32 mutation are resistant to infection with certain strains of HIV. HIV is genetically variable and exists as different strains, which cause different rates of clinical disease progression. The use of highly active antiretroviral therapy prolongs both the median time of progression to AIDS and the median survival time.
Since June 5, 1981, many definitions have been developed for epidemiological surveillance such as the Bangui definition and the 1994 expanded World Health Organization AIDS case definition. However, clinical staging of patients was not an intended use for these systems as they are neither sensitive, nor specific. In developing countries, the World Health Organization staging system for HIV infection and disease, using clinical and laboratory data, is used and in developed countries, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Classification System is used.
WHO disease staging system for HIV infection and disease
Main article: WHO Disease Staging System for HIV Infection and Disease
In 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) grouped these infections and conditions together by introducing a staging system for patients infected with HIV-1. An update took place in September 2005. Most of these conditions are opportunistic infections that are easily treatable in healthy people.
• Stage I: HIV infection is asymptomatic and not categorized as AIDS
• Stage II: includes minor mucocutaneous manifestations and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections
• Stage III: includes unexplained chronic diarrhea for longer than a month, severe bacterial infections and pulmonary tuberculosis
• Stage IV: includes toxoplasmosis of the brain, candidiasis of the esophagus, trachea, bronchi or lungs and Kaposi's sarcoma; these diseases are indicators of AIDS.
CDC classification system for HIV infection
In the beginning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not have an official name for the disease, often referring to it by way of the diseases that were associated with it, for example, lymphadenopathy, the disease after which the discoverers of HIV originally named the virus. They also used Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections, the name by which a task force had been set up in 1981. In the general press, the term GRID, which stood for Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, had been coined. However, after determining that AIDS was not isolated to the homosexual community, the term GRID became misleading and AIDS was introduced at a meeting in July 1982. By September 1982 the CDC started using the name AIDS, and properly defined the illness. In 1993, the CDC expanded their definition of AIDS to include all HIV positive people with a CD4+ T cell count below 200 per µL of blood or 14% of all lymphocytes. The majority of new AIDS cases in developed countries use either this definition or the pre-1993 CDC definition. The AIDS diagnosis still stands even if, after treatment, the CD4+ T cell count rises to above 200 per µL of blood or other AIDS-defining illnesses are cured.
Many people are unaware that they are infected with HIV. Less than 1% of the sexually active urban population in Africa has been tested, and this proportion is even lower in rural populations. Furthermore, only 0.5% of pregnant women attending urban health facilities are counseled, tested or receive their test results. Again, this proportion is even lower in rural health facilities. Therefore, donor blood and blood products used in medicine and medical research are screened for HIV. Typical HIV tests, including the HIV enzyme immunoassay and the Western blot assay, detect HIV antibodies in serum, plasma, oral fluid, dried blood spot or urine of patients. However, the window period (the time between initial infection and the development of detectable antibodies against the infection) can vary. This is why it can take 3–6 months to seroconvert and test positive. Commercially available tests to detect other HIV antigens, HIV-RNA, and HIV-DNA in order to detect HIV infection prior to the development of detectable antibodies are available. For the diagnosis of HIV infection these assays are not specifically approved, but are nonetheless routinely used in developed countries.
Symptoms and complications
The symptoms of AIDS are primarily the result of conditions that do not normally develop in individuals with healthy immune systems. Most of these conditions are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that are normally controlled by the elements of the immune system that HIV damages. Opportunistic infections are common in people with AIDS. HIV affects nearly every organ system. People with AIDS also have an increased risk of developing various cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma, cervical cancer and cancers of the immune system known as lymphomas.
Additionally, people with AIDS often have systemic symptoms of infection like fevers, sweats (particularly at night), swollen glands, chills, weakness, and weight loss. After the diagnosis of AIDS is made, the current average survival time with antiretroviral therapy (as of 2005) is estimated to be more than 5 years, but because new treatments continue to be developed and because HIV continues to evolve resistance to treatments, estimates of survival time are likely to continue to change. Without antiretroviral therapy, death normally occurs within a year. Most patients die from opportunistic infections or malignancies associated with the progressive failure of the immune system.
The rate of clinical disease progression varies widely between individuals and has been shown to be affected by many factors such as host susceptibility and immune function health care and co-infections, as well as factors relating to the viral strain. The specific opportunistic infections that AIDS patients develop depend in part on the prevalence of these infections in the geographic area in which the patient lives.
Major pulmonary illnesses
X-ray of Pneumocystis jirovecii caused pneumonia. There is increased white (opacity) in the lower lungs on both sides, characteristic of Pneumocystis pneumonia
• Pneumocystis pneumonia (originally known as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and still abbreviated as PCP, which now stands for Pneumocystis pneumonia) is relatively rare in healthy, immunocompetent people, but common among HIV-infected individuals. It is caused by Pneumocystis jirovecii. Before the advent of effective diagnosis, treatment and routine prophylaxis in Western countries, it was a common immediate cause of death. In developing countries, it is still one of the first indications of AIDS in untested individuals, although it does not generally occur unless the CD4 count is less than 200 per µL.
• Tuberculosis (TB) is unique among infections associated with HIV because it is transmissible to immunocompetent people via the respiratory route, is easily treatable once identified, may occur in early-stage HIV disease, and is preventable with drug therapy. However, multidrug resistance is a potentially serious problem. Even though its incidence has declined because of the use of directly observed therapy and other improved practices in Western countries, this is not the case in developing countries where HIV is most prevalent. In early-stage HIV infection (CD4 count >300 cells per µL), TB typically presents as a pulmonary disease. In advanced HIV infection, TB often presents atypically with extrapulmonary (systemic) disease a common feature. Symptoms are usually constitutional and are not localized to one particular site, often affecting bone marrow, bone, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts, liver, regional lymph nodes, and the central nervous system. Alternatively, symptoms may relate more to the site of extrapulmonary involvement.
Group: Group V ((-)ssRNA)
Species: Rabies virus
Classification & external resources
med/1374 emerg/493 ped/1974
Rabies (Latin: rabies, "madness, rage, fury") is a viral zoonotic disease that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in mammals. In non-vaccinated humans, rabies is almost invariably fatal after neurological symptoms have developed, but prompt post-exposure vaccination may prevent the virus from progressing. There are only six known cases of a person surviving rabies after the onset of symptoms. 
The rabies virus is a Lyssavirus. This genus of RNA viruses also includes the Aravan virus, Australian bat lyssavirus, Duvenhage virus, European bat lyssavirus 1, European bat lyssavirus 2, Irkut virus, Khujand virus, Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus and West Caucasian bat virus. Lyssaviruses have helical symmetry, so their infectious particles are approximately cylindrical in shape. This is typical of plant-infecting viruses; human-infecting viruses more commonly have cubic symmetry and take shapes approximating regular polyhedra. Negri bodies in the infected neurons are pathognomonic.
The virus has a bullet-like shape with a length of about 180 nm and a cross-sectional diameter of about 75 nm. One end is rounded or conical and the other end is planar or concave. The lipoprotein envelope carries knob-like spikes composed of Glycoprotein G. Spikes do not cover the planar end of the virion (virus particle). Beneath the envelope is the membrane or matrix (M) protein layer which may be invaginated at the planar end. The core of the virion consists of helically arranged ribonucleoprotein. The genome is unsegmented linear antisense RNA. Also present in the nucleocapsid are RNA dependent RNA transcriptase and some structural proteins.
Longitudinal and cross-sectional schematic view of rabies virus
The differential diagnosis in a case of suspected human rabies may initially include any cause of encephalitis, particularly infection with viruses such as herpesviruses, enteroviruses, and arboviruses (e.g., West Nile virus). The most important viruses to rule out are herpes simplex virus type 1, varicella-zoster virus, and (less commonly) enteroviruses, including coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, polioviruses, and human enteroviruses 68 to 71. A specific diagnosis may be made by a variety of diagnostic techniques, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of cerebrospinal fluid, viral culture, and serology. In addition, consideration should be given to the local epidemiology of encephalitis caused by arboviruses belonging to several taxonomic groups, including eastern and western equine encephalitis viruses, St. Louis encephalitis virus, Powassan virus, the California encephalitis virus serogroup, and La Crosse virus.
New causes of viral encephalitis are also possible, as was evidenced by the recent outbreak in Malaysia of some 300 cases of encephalitis (mortality rate, 40%) caused by Nipah virus, a newly recognized paramyxovirus. Similarly, well-known viruses may be introduced into new locations, as is illustrated by the recent outbreak of encephalitis due to West Nile virus in the eastern United States. Epidemiologic factors (e.g., season, geographic location, and the patient’s age, travel history, and possible exposure to animal bites, rodents, and ticks) may help direct the diagnostic workup.
Transmission and symptoms
Micrograph with numerous rabies virions (small dark-grey rod-like particles) and Negri bodies, larger pathognomonic cellular inclusions of rabies infection
Any mammal may become infected with the rabies virus and develop symptoms, including humans. Most animals can be infected by the virus and can transmit the disease to humans. Infected bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, wolves, dogs or cats provide the greatest risk to humans. Rabies may also spread through exposure to infected domestic farm animals, groundhogs, weasels and other wild carnivores. Squirrels, rodents and rabbits are seldom infected.
The virus is usually present in the nerves and saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal. The route of infection is usually, but not necessarily, by a bite. In many cases the affected animal is exceptionally aggressive, may attack without provocation, and exhibits otherwise uncharacteristic behavior. Transmission may also occur via an aerosol through mucous membranes; transmission in this form may have happened in people exploring caves populated by rabid bats. Transmission between humans is extremely rare, although it can happen through transplant surgery (see below for recent cases), or, even more rarely, through bites or kisses.
After a typical human infection by bite, the virus directly or indirectly enters the peripheral nervous system. It then travels along the nerves towards the central nervous system. During this phase, the virus cannot be easily detected within the host, and vaccination may still confer cell-mediated immunity to preempt symptomatic rabies. Once the virus reaches the brain, it rapidly causes encephalitis and symptoms appear. It may also inflame the spinal cord producing myelitis.
The period between infection and the first flu-like symptoms is normally two to twelve weeks, but can be as long as two years. Soon after, the symptoms expand to slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, progressing to delirium. The production of large quantities of saliva and tears coupled with an inability to speak or swallow are typical during the later stages of the disease; this can result in "hydrophobia", where the victim has difficulty swallowing, shows panic when presented with liquids to drink, and cannot quench his or her thirst. The disease itself was also once commonly known as hydrophobia, from these characteristic symptoms. Death almost invariably results two to ten days after the first symptoms; the few humans who are known to have survived the disease were all left with severe brain damage, with the recent exception of Jeanna Giese (see below).
There is no known cure for symptomatic rabies, but it can be prevented by vaccination, both in humans and other animals. Virtually every infection with rabies was a death sentence, until Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux developed the first rabies vaccination in 1885. This vaccine was first used on a human on July 6, 1885 – nine-year old boy Joseph Meister (1876–1940) had been mauled by a rabid dog. 
Their vaccine consisted of a sample of the virus harvested from infected (and necessarily dead) rabbits, which was weakened by allowing it to dry. Similar nerve tissue-derived vaccines are still used now in some countries, and while they are much cheaper than modern cell culture vaccines, they are not as effective and carry a certain risk of neurological complications.
The human diploid cell rabies vaccine (H.D.C.V.) was started in 1967. Human diploid cell rabies vaccines are made using the attenuated Pitman-Moore L503 strain of the virus. Human diploid cell rabies vaccines have been given to more than 1.5 million humans as of 2006. Newer and less expensive purified chicken embryo cell vaccine, and purified Vero cell rabies vaccine are now available. The purified Vero cell rabies vaccine uses the attenuated Wistar strain of the rabies virus, and uses the Vero cell line as its host.
Treatment after exposure, known as post-exposure prophylaxis or "P.E.P.", is highly successful in preventing the disease if administered promptly, within fourteen days after infection. The first step is immediately washing the wound with soap and water, which is very effective at reducing the number of viral particles. In the United States, patients receive one dose of immunoglobulin and five doses of rabies vaccine over a twenty-eight day period. One-half the dose of immunoglobulin is injected in the region of the bite, if possible, with the remainder injected intramuscularly away from the bite. This is much less painful compared with administering immunoglobulin through the abdominal wall with a large needle, which is how it was done in the past. The first dose of rabies vaccine is given as soon as possible after exposure, with additional doses on days three, seven, fourteen, and twenty-eight after the first. Patients that have previously received pre-exposure vaccination do not receive the immunoglobulin, only the post-exposure vaccinations. Since the widespread vaccination of domestic dogs and cats and the development of effective human vaccines and immunoglobulin treatments, the number of recorded deaths in the U.S. from rabies has dropped from one hundred or more annually in the early twentieth century, to 1–2 per year, mostly caused by bat bites, which may go unnoticed by the victim and hence untreated.
P.E.P. is effective in treating rabies because the virus must travel from the site of infection through the peripheral nervous system (nerves in the body) before infecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and glands to cause lethal damage. This travel along the nerves is usually slow enough that vaccine and immunoglobulin can be administered to protect the brain and glands from infection. The amount of time this travel requires is dependent on how far the infected area is from the brain: if the victim is bitten in the face, for example, the time between initial infection and infection of the brain is very short and P.E.P. may not be successful.
Currently pre-exposure immunization has been used on domesticated and normal non-human populations. In many jurisdictions, domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be vaccinated. A pre-exposure vaccination is also available for humans, most commonly given to veterinarians and those traveling to regions where the disease is common, such as India. Most tourists do not need such a vaccination, just those doing substantial non-urban activities. However, should a vaccinated human be bitten by a carrier, failure to receive subsequent post-exposure treatment could be fatal, although post-exposure treatment for a vaccinated human is far less extensive than which would normally be required by one with no pre-exposure vaccination.
In 1984 researchers at the Wistar Institute developed a recombinant vaccine called V-RG by inserting the glycoprotein gene from rabies into a vaccinia virus. The V-RG vaccine has since been commercialized by Merial under the trademark Raboral. It is harmless to humans and has been shown to be safe for various species of animals that might accidentally encounter it in the wild, including birds (gulls, hawks, and owls).
V-RG has been successfully used in the field in Belgium, France, and the United States to prevent outbreaks of rabies in wildlife. The virus is stable under relatively high temperatures and can be delivered orally, making mass vaccination of wildlife possible by putting it in tasty baits. The plan for immunization of normal populations involves dropping bait containing food wrapped around a small dose of the live virus. The bait would be dropped by helicopter concentrating on areas that have not been infected yet. Just such a strategy of oral immunization of foxes in Europe has already achieved substantial reductions in the incidence of human rabies. A strategy of vaccinating "neighborhood dogs" in Jaipur, India, (combined with a sterilization program) has also resulted in a large reduction in the number of human cases.