Every September 28th, we celebrate World Rabies Day, a global health observance that aims to raise awareness and take action against this horrific disease. Did you know that rabies is the world's deadliest infectious disease? It kills nearly 60,000 people every year, mostly children. But rabies is also 100% preventable with vaccination and timely treatment.
World Rabies Day was started in 2007 and coincides with the anniversary of Louis Pasteur's death, the scientist who developed the first rabies vaccine.
World Rabies Day is an opportunity to reflect on how rabies affects your community and other communities around the world. In the United States, rabies is well controlled thanks to effective animal control and vaccination programs, and a robust healthcare system that can provide post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to people who have been exposed to a potentially rabid animal. However, in many other countries, especially in Africa and Asia, rabies is still a major public health threat. Most human cases are caused by dog bites, and many people do not have access to lifesaving PEP.
The theme for this year's World Rabies Day is "Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths".
This means that we need to work together across human, animal, and environmental sectors to eliminate rabies deaths by 2030. This ambitious goal is supported by major health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How can you help?
As mentioned above, rabies is 100% preventable with a few simple precautions - the most important is vaccinating your pet.
1. Vaccinate on Schedule
Stick to your vet-approved vaccination schedule. Not sure about how often your pet should be vaccinated for rabies? BetterVet, a national mobile vet care provider, can answer this question and any others about your pet’s health. BetterVet offers in-home pet vaccinations, such as the rabies vaccine, as part of their suite of Fear-Free® services.
2. Keep Pets Away from Wildlife
Except for quick potty breaks, keep your pets inside at night and away from skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes - common carriers of rabies.
3. Report Strange Behaviors
If you observe a wild animal acting strangely (drooling, foaming at the mouth, aggressive behaviors, or staggering), call animal control immediately to report it.
4. Do Not Approach Stray Dogs or Cats
As much as we’d like to help a stray dog or cat in need, you or your pet should not approach them, as their vaccination status is unknown. Contact animal control instead.
5. Report Animal Bites Immediately
If your dog or cat is bitten by a wild animal or unfamiliar pet, contact your veterinarian immediately.
6. Know the Signs
Educate yourself and others about the signs and symptoms of rabies and what to do if you are bitten or scratched by an animal. You can also support local and global efforts to vaccinate dogs and prevent rabies transmission.
The first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu, such as fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. There may also be discomfort or itching at the site of the bite. These symptoms may last for days. Then, the symptoms may progress to more serious neurological effects, such as agitation, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), insomnia, paralysis, and hyperventilation. The final stage is coma which leads to death.
Together, we can make rabies history. Join us in celebrating World Rabies Day and spreading the word about this preventable disease.
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If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to rabies, please seek medical attention immediately- it could be lifesaving.