It's tragic that a disease as preventable as rabies continues to do so much damage around the world.
Perhaps the oldest recognized infectious disease, and quite possibly the first known disease transmissible from animals to people, rabies in humans can be eliminated but still kills around 59,000 people each year worldwide.
That's why veterinarians and public health officials are once again looking to World Rabies Day (Sept. 28) to help educate the public, and especially pet owners, about the dangers of the disease and the importance of vaccination, which is the foundation of all rabies control efforts. The theme of this year's World Rabies Day is "Vaccinate to eliminate."
"Vaccinating our pets and animals is the best way to protect them and the public from contracting what is almost always a fatal disease once symptoms occur," said Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "By taking this simple step, you’re helping to not just protect your pets and animals, but to protect your family, community, other animals and people."
World Rabies Day is held every year on September 28 and marked by special events such as vaccination clinics and educational programs to raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent it and how to eliminate the main global sources.
While rabies is easy to prevent in domestic animals, more work needs to be done to ensure that pet owners are doing all they can in the fight against the disease.
"AVMA research shows that cats go to the veterinarian for exams and vaccinations far too infrequently compared to dogs," Dr. Howe says. "Our most recent data shows that over 45 percent of cat-owning households didn't visit the veterinarian in the past year, whereas less than 20 percent of dog-owning households fell into the same category. Pet owners owe it to themselves and their pets to make sure that we do all we can to prevent the spread of rabies."
In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 276 recorded cases of rabies in cats, compared to just 62 in dogs. Among U.S. wildlife, the top carriers of rabies are bats (1,433 cases), raccoons (1,275), skunks (939) and foxes (314).
In addition to unvaccinated pets, exposure to stray animals increases the risk of rabies transmission. Be certain your pets do not roam free, and caution your children not to approach and/or pet stray animals or wildlife.
To learn more, visit www.avma.org, or go to the World Rabies Day website at www.worldrabiesday.org.
For more information, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA senior media relations specialist, at 847-732-6194 (cell) or msanfilippoavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).