Today is World Rabies Day! World Rabies Day is a global event held annually in September to recognize and bring attention to rabies prevention methods, including the importance of vaccination. It is organized primarily by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).
What is rabies?
Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system. Animals can transmit the virus to people through an infected bite as the virus is shed in saliva. Some cases have been reported where rabies can be transmitted through an open cut on the skin or through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Once the visible clinical signs of rabies appears, it is nearly always fatal and there is no cure. This stresses the importance of Wold Rabies Day and why time is focused to educate the public about this deadly disease.
Once the visible clinical signs of rabies appears, it is nearly always fatal and there is no cure.
What animals can get rabies?
All mammals are susceptible to rabies. In the United States, most cases of rabies occur in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes, and foxes. In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies. The reason behind this is many cat owners (especially indoor only cat owners in my experience) do not vaccinate their cats as they do not believe it is necessary. Bats getting into the home is the most common way an indoor cat becomes exposed to rabies. Certainly, indoor/outdoor cats are exposed to rabies when they are in contact with wildlife.
Cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies.
There are approved rabies vaccines available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep. If you own any of these animals, it is recommended to administer a rabies vaccination regularly at the discretion of your pet’s veterinarian.
Rabies and Humans
There are 59,000 deaths due to Rabies in people every year worldwide.
There are 59,000 deaths due to Rabies in people every year worldwide. This number comes in part from other countries that do not have as strict of vaccination guidelines as the United States for domestic animals.
Vaccinating domestic animals for rabies, animal control programs in feral populations, and treatment of people in contact with rabies have drastically reduced the human cases of rabies within the United States. In the United States, the few human cases of rabies usually result from exposure to bats when they, on accident, enter the home. Any contact with bats or other suspected rabid wildlife should be reported to your physician and your local animal control officer immediately.
How can you help to control rabies?
The key to rabies control is vaccination! Vaccination = prevention. Other things we can do to help control rabies are preventing your pets from roaming free, if possible, to reduce contact with wild animals. Take care not to leave items outside your home that may attract wild animals like food or garbage. It is important to remember that wild animals are wild and should be observed from a distance. Any abnormal wild animal behavior should be reported immediately to your area animal control department. Also, you can bat-proof your home to prevent bats from nesting and having access indoors to people or pets.
This article was written using information and statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). Please visit either of their websites for additional information.