September 28th is World Rabies Day, an annual reminder to pet owners to vaccinate their animals against rabies and a yearly occasion for rabies awareness and education programs. Globally, many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations provide free or discounted rabies vaccination programs for orphaned, abandoned, feral , stray or otherwise unattended animals on this date as well.
Webinars, or online seminars, are offered each year on September 28th to provide education on rabies, insights into current rabies research and instructions for its prevention and treatment.
World Rabies Day was originated in 2007 by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other international health and animal welfare groups. This annual date is primarily aimed at raising global awareness of the public health impact of rabies.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral zootnotic (animal-afflicting) infectious disease that attacks mammals. Wholly preventable, rabies is primarily transmitted through saliva of infected creatures. This process may occur through animal bites, scratches or licks on areas with broken skin.
Many mammalian species may become rabid, or infected with rabies. These include bats, beavers, bobcats, cats, cougars, coyotes, deer, dogs, ferrets, foxes, goats, groundhogs, horses, mongooses, opossums, otters, rabbits, raccoons, sheep, skunks and more.
Rabies has been called the oldest recognized infectious disease. Documentation of rabies exists from the earliest human history.
What are the symptoms of rabies in animals?
The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system of infected animals. Symptoms may include agitation, aggression, anxiety, confusion, difficulty swallowing, drooling, fever, hallucinations, headache, insomnia, light sensitivity, paralysis, seizures, staggering, weakness and more. Rabies is usually fatal in animals, often within a few days after the first symptoms are exhibited.
Is rabies a health threat to humans?
Currently, rabies is a significant threat to human health, particularly in Africa and Asia, where more than 95 percent of all annual rabies fatalities are documented. In these two continents alone, more than 55,000 people die each year from rabies. Of these, more than half are children under age 15. Most of these rabies infections are attributed to rabid dog bites.
By contrast, in the United States, one to two humans may die from rabies each year.
How can rabies be prevented?
Animal vaccination is the secret to stopping rabies worldwide. Pet owners who faithfully have their animals inoculated can help. For this reason, most communities require pet owners to vaccinate against rabies each year.
“Vaccinating dogs and cats is the best way to protect pets and the public from contracting what is almost always a fatal disease once symptoms occur,” said Dr. Larry R. Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “By taking this simple step, you help make for a safer, healthier pet, family and community.”
In addition, individual veterinary practices decrease the spread of rabies through annual preventative inoculations.
“Local veterinarians play a key role in controlling rabies,” explained Dr. Charles Rupprecht, chief of the rabies program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.