Why Does Rabies Cause Crazy?

While a zombie-causing virus doesn’t exist, if we had to pick one virus that came close, it would probably be the rabies virus. 

Everyone associates the rabies virus with a “crazed” animal, and for good reason. 

Wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, and even our own pets can exhibit extremely odd & aggressive behavior after being infected with rabies.

Animals typically foam at the mouth, experience muscle spasms, lose their fear of humans, become extremely aggressive, and exhibit quite strange behavior. 

To watch the video version of this post, please click here now. We have some incredible animal & virus footage to accompany! 


Rabies is one of the most well-known zoonotic diseases, and it spreads primarily through animal bites, making it all the more similar to the zombies analogy! 

Rabies affect the nervous system of the affected host, which leads to a wide range of strange behaviors- but why exactly does it cause the infected to become more aggressive? 

Also, infected humans can exhibit a range of strange symptoms when they receive rabies via a bite from an animal! 

Humans may experience intense states of anxiety, confusion, partial paralysis, agitation, hallucinations, and most strange is the final phase: hydrophobia. 

Hydrophobia is an intense, sudden fear of water. Humans experiencing one of the late symptoms of rabies will suddenly become terrified of water, will refuse to drink it, and avoid it, even if it would save their life! 

Humans that are infected with rabies typically have a 99% chance of death if immediate medical intervention is not received, so if you’ve been bit by a wild animal, it’s absolutely critical you go to the hospital immediately, as once symptoms start to appear, it’s typically too late. 

Why exactly rabies causes all of these fascinating symptoms has not been well understood, despite intensive studying long-term on the disease. 

The rabies virus itself isn’t particularly complicated. Why is it that a series of molecular chemical reactions that the virus causes can turn a sane creature into a biting monster, or cause a thirsty human to avoid water, even at the expense of their life? 

A Series of Chemical Reactions

A team of researchers in Fairbanks, Alaska set out to research why exactly aggression and fearlessness are symptoms of this virus. 

Previous research has shown that glycoprotein molecules on the surface of the rabies virus bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in muscles. Knowing that mammalian brains (raccoons, humans, etc.) also contain nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, the Alaskan researchers set out to determine whether the virus could inhibit those neurotransmitter receptors and affect host behavior. 

They tested their hypothesis in-vitro, in roundworms (C. elegans) and in mice, and observed the results. 

Their discovery revealed that the binding does occur, and “a region in the rabies virus glycoprotein, with homologies to snake toxins, has the ability to alter behavior in animals through inhibition of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors present in the central nervous system.”

This effect on the central nervous system of mammals is exactly what causes the intense, behavioral changes in rabid animals! 

Rabies And You

As we wrote earlier, if you are bit by a wild animal, seek medical attention ASAP. Same for if your pet is bit by a wild animal, as rabies is symptom-less until it’s too late. 

This is also why it’s so critical to report animals exhibiting aggressive, fearless, or otherwise strange behaviors in public. 

Reporting the wild creature so that it could be investigated could save a life by helping another human to not get bit down the line, or even their pet! 

If you have a wildlife or pest infestation, you can contact us at 855-WILDLIFE or visit www.wildlifexteam.com for more information. 

We will investigate the situation for you, and if possible safely restore the animal to their wild habitat. 

Wildlife x Team International specializes in safe & responsible removal of wildlife & pests, and we also restore any damage that they may have caused, keeping you, your family, your home, and your pets safe! 

-Wildlife x Team International 


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