World Rabies Day? Who wants to celebrate rabies? Well, some ‘holidays’ are about awareness rather than celebration. Although only a few people die annually in the United States of rabies, there were more than 6,000 reported case of animal rabies in 2014. Moreover, rabies kills over 55,000 people worldwide each year.
What is rabies? It’s a viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Most often transmitted through saliva, there have been cases where it’s been passed through infected nervous tissue coming into contact with wounds in the skin or even through corneal and internal organ transplants.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can pass between different species. Ninety percent of human cases are caused by exposure to an infected dog, but the disease can also be transmitted to people by other animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Other examples of zoonotic diseases are bird flu and swine flu.
Rabies is considered the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can stops the rabies virus before clinical symptoms appear, if given immediately after exposure. PEP consists of antibodies injected into the wound (these are antibodies against the rabies virus), and a series of rabies vaccinations. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is always fatal.
Who does rabies affect? Rabies is found on every continent except Antarctica, but it’s well-controlled in most developed countries through ongoing public health measures. Those most at risk of the disease today are young people living in underdeveloped countries.
First co-sponsored by CDC and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) to raise awareness about the public health impact of human and animal rabies, World Rabies Day is now a global event. 2016 marks the 10th World Rabies Day. The top way you can help is to vaccinate your pets and keep them away from wildlife that can spread the disease. You can also donate to groups fighting to eliminate rabies.
Remember, rabies is 100% preventable but also has a 99.99% fatality rate. Do your small part to keep your pets, your neighbors, and your world safe.