Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Por qué el virus de la rabia aún mata

SINGAPUR – Un virus que infecta el cerebro, hace que le den ganas de morder las cosas, y es casi siempre fatal después de la aparición de los síntomas probablemente suena como algo salido de una película de zombis. Sin embargo, este ha sido el modus operandi de la rabia, también llamada hidrofobia, por lo menos desde el año 2300 antes de Cristo, cuando se la describió en el Código Eshuma de Babilonia. La etimología de la palabra en sánscrito – rabhas, que significa “cometer violencia” – se remonta aún más: a 3.000 años antes de Cristo.

En teoría, hoy en día ningún ser humano debería morir a causa de la rabia, y, sin embargo, según un estudio del año 2015, el virus mata a 59.000 personas al año. Eso significa 160 personas cada día, y la cantidad real podría ser mucho mayor si pudiésemos contar los casos no reportados o no tratados. La mayoría de estas muertes se producen en Asia y África; y, la India por sí sola da cuenta de un tercio de la mortalidad total a nivel mundial a causa de la rabia.

Ese total no es tan alto en comparación con la cantidad de muertos por tuberculosis, VIH/SIDA y malaria; pero, a diferencia de dichas enfermedades, todos los mamíferos parecen ser susceptibles a la rabia. Los perros, los anfitriones predominantes del virus en la mayoría de las regiones, pueden infectarse a través de un animal salvaje con rabia, y luego infectar a los humanos. Los perros que muestran síntomas pueden morder a un humano, pero también pueden transmitir el virus simplemente al lamer, si su saliva entra en contacto con un rasguño, piel dañada o una mucosa.

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