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Rabies is an infection of the central nervous system that can affect all warm-blooded creatures, including humans. Rabies is also known as hydrophobia (fear of water).
The rabies virus causes inflammation (swelling) of the brain and is transmitted through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, usually a dog, into the bloodstream. Once the disease is fully established in a person and they begin to show symptoms, it almost always leads to death.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 40,000 and 70,000 people die from rabies every year, as a result of being bitten by a rabid animal. Urban rabies affects dogs and cats; Sylvain (wild) rabies affects bats and foxes and other wild animals.
Rabies is found in over 150 countries but at least 30 countries, including the UK are now officially classified as rabies free, mainly through strict animal transport controls.