September 28th was World Rabies Day, an international event established by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control to raise awareness of the deadly virus. The theme for 2015 is “End Rabies Together.” With this in mind, it’s the perfect time to take a few minutes to educate yourself about rabies prevention and treatment.
Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through exposure to the saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal, and is nearly always fatal without proper treatment. Rabies kills over 55,000 people per year; at least half those are children under the age of 15 who are unaware of the risks of rabies. In 95% of human rabies cases, the cause is a bite or a scratch from an infected dog.
Symptoms of Rabies
Rabies is not always visible to the naked eye. However, the following symptoms are common in infected animals:
- Staggering or stumbling
- Unprovoked aggressive behavior or overly friendly behavior
- Foaming at the mouth
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control recommends that all mammals in frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated, but especially dogs, cats, and ferrets. Additionally, vaccinations should always be kept up to date to ensure their usefulness. Call Gardner Animal Care Center if you are not sure about the vaccination status of your pet.
In order to reduce the risk of exposure to rabies from wildlife, the Alliance recommends that pet owners feed and water their pets indoors, as even empty bowls can attract wildlife. Garbage should be securely covered, as the smell from an open garbage can attracts stray animals. Wild animals should never be kept as pets, and should never be approached, even if they appear friendly.
If you’re bitten or scratched by an animal that is unknown to you, you may have been exposed to rabies. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Once symptoms of rabies appear, survival is very rare.
If your pet is bitten by an unvaccinated animal, consult your veterinarian or local animal official immediately.
More Information about Rabies