Even though rabies is 100% preventable, the sad fact is that every ten minutes someone somewhere in the world dies from rabies. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control hopes to change with its awareness campaign, the annual World Rabies Day.
Rabies is not a new problem. In fact, evidence of rabies dates back about 4,000 years to Babylonia. It was reported in Europe in the Middle Ages. The first record of rabies in North America was in Virginia in the mid-1700s. But it was not until the late 19th century that Louis Pasteur and his assistant Emile Roux developed the first rabies vaccine.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animal to human. The virus can attach the brain and nervous system, and is often fatal, especially without prompt treatment unless the victim has been vaccinated against the disease.
Bats are among the most common carriers of rabies in the United States, along with skunks and raccoons. Many of us have our pets vaccinated against rabies, in part because it’s required by law. That’s why, of the several thousand cases of animal rabies reported in the U.S. each year, most are wildlife, with only a handful of human cases reported. Elsewhere in the world, rabies kills more than fifty thousand people every year, mainly in Asia and Africa, where dogs are not routinely vaccinated against the disease.
The sad part is that rabies is so easily prevented, by vaccinating animals that come into contact with humans. To that end, a group of researchers and health organizations – including the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization - joined together five years ago with the mission of preventing rabies in humans and controlling it in animals. As part of that effort they have designated Friday, September 28th, as the sixth annual World Rabies Day. Their hope is to increase awareness and mobilize resources around the world to save lives. For more information, visit their website at WorldRabiesDay.org.
And now a question - is your pet’s vaccination up to date? If it’s been a while since your dog or cat or horse was vaccinated for rabies call your veterinarian this week and make an appointment.
Join the rest of the world as we all work together to make rabies history, when we’re speaking of people and pets.