The virus travels slowly along peripheral nerves from the bite to the brain, and it can be several months between the animal bite and onset of the encephalitis.
Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion and agitation, paranoia, terror, hallucinations, and delirium. There is increased salivation, but attempts to drink or swallow lead to excruciatingly painful spasms of the muscles in the throat and larynx leading to “hydrophobia” (fear of water).
The increased salivation, combined with unwillingness to swallow, leads to profuse drooling of saliva infected with virus. The encephalitis leads to increased aggressiveness, unprovoked attack and biting, and thus facilitates the spread of the virus.
Although the only confirmed cases human to human transmission of rabies have been recipients of infected donor organs, folklore has suggested transmission by sex, nursing and biting, inspiring stories about vampires, werewolves, vampires and zombies.
The similarities between rabies and werewolves needs no further explanation.
In 1998, Juan Gomez-Alonso a Spanish neurologist wrote a paper in Neurology comparing vampirism with human rabies.
The most marked similarity are caused by rabid spasms of the head and throat.
This leads to clenched teeth with retracted lips like and animal, and inability to swallow saliva with frothing at the mouth and vomiting of bloody fluid.
And the same goes for Zombies:
These creatures first made fashionable in the 1954 book I am Legend, and then featured in the more recent movies 28 Days Later and World War Z, are even said to be caused by “infections” transmitted when a human is bitten by a demented zombie.
Click here to find out more similarities between Rabies, Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies.