Every year hundreds of thousands of people organize and take part in World Rabies Day. All over the world people are active in local, regional and national events, held to raise awareness about and/or prevent the spread of rabies. This year, World Rabies Day is Saturday, September 28. The theme is “Understand It to Prevent It”.
Rabies is caused by a virus that people and animals can get through exposure to saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal. It is nearly always fatal without proper post-exposure treatment. The good news is rabies is 100% preventable. However, 55,000 people die every year from rabies; over half of that number is children under the age of 15. Because children are innocent of the risks, they often play with animals they don’t know. Their small size makes them more vulnerable to bites to the head and neck, which results in a more rapid onset of symptoms. Over 95% of human rabies cases are caused by a bite or scratch from an infected dog.
Prevention starts with responsible pet ownership. All mammals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated, including dogs, cats, ferrets and horses. Make sure that vaccinations are boostered on a regular basis. Reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free. Reduce the risk of exposure from wildlife by not feeding your pet outside. Ensure that your garbage is securely covered to keep wild and stray animals away. It is also very important to educate children not to approach or handle unfamiliar animals, even if they appear friendly.
Rabies is real, even in Nebraska. In 2012, 59 cases were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services. Rabid animals included skunks, bats, cats, dogs, raccoons and cattle. Make sure your family is protected from this deadly virus. For more information, contact the CDC Rabies website at www.cdc.gov/rabies and the World Health Organization at www.who.int/rabies/en