How true is that claim that washing wounds from dog bite with soap and water is effective against rabies?

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On December 8, 2023, in response to a post by an X user @fzywa that warns people to avoid dogs due to the fatality of rabies disease, a fellow X user Rukayyah (@rukkymama94) asserted that if bitten by a dog, washing the wound with soap and water would constitute a valid form of first aid.

This is coming as conversation on ways to avoid contracting rabies from rabid animals has garnered various suggestions and insights from a host of persons online. It has also expanded into possible first aid and reactive measures in the event that one gets bitten.

Rukayyah wroteAvoid dogs?????? Seriously???

You should enlighten people instead on what to do if they ever get bitten.

The very first thing to do is to wash the bite site with SOAP and RUNNING WATER. The virus that causes Rabies gets easily inactivated by soap.

READ : How true is that claim that washing wounds from dog bite with soap and water is effective against rabies?

Her post has garnered over 729,000 views, more than 2,500 reposts and over 3,900 likes etc as of Sunday, December 24.

 

CLAIM

Washing human wounds from dog bite with soap and water is effective against rabies infection.

 

THE FINDINGS

The claim by the X user, @rukkymama94, is TRUE!

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease often transmitted from the saliva of infected animals to humans through bites. These animals could be dogs, squirrels, bats and others. Any mammal can get rabies.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system of mammals, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Death happens virtually 100% of the time after clinical symptoms begin to appear.

Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans. Rabies can be prevented through vaccination of dogs and prevention of dog bites.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), washing with soap and water is listed as Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is an emergency response to rabies exposure.

It reads“Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the emergency response to a rabies exposure. This prevents the virus from entering the central nervous system, which would invariably result in death. PEP consists of:

  • extensive washing with water and soap for at least 15 minutes and local treatment of the wound as soon as possible after a suspected exposure”

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) also confirms that washing dog bite’s wound with soap is a valid form of first treatment.

It reads“Doctors will treat your wound by washing it for at least 15 minutes with soap and water, detergent, or iodine.” 

This is however a first aid step as such a person still needs to see a medical practitioner as soon as possible, says Dan Brennan, a medical doctor and reviewer in a WedMD article.

“Wash the wound right away with soap and water. That’s the best way to lower your chances of infection. See a doctor as soon as possible. They’ll treat the wound and decide whether you need a rabies vaccination,” it stated.

 

THE VERDICT

The claim that washing human wounds from dog bite with soap and water is effective against rabies infection is MOSTLY TRUE; as findings show that this is a first aid measure and victims of dog bite are charged to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

 

* This fact-check was written by Amadin Ogbewe, a fellow of the ICIR’s Countering Misinformation and Promoting Media Literacy project, supported by the German Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.

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