According to the CDC, "Every year, an estimated 40,000 people in the U.S. receive a series of shots known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) due to potential exposure to rabies. In addition, the U.S. public health cost associated with rabies is approximately $300 million. Each year around the world, rabies results in an estimated 55,000 deaths – approximately one death every 10 minutes. Most deaths are reported from Africa and Asia with almost 50% of the victims being children under the age of 15."
The tragedy in these statistics is that by-and-large, rabies in our pets can be prevented by a simple injection of rabies vaccine. Rabies is also a zoonotic disease, transmitted to humans by dogs, cats, and other animals. According to Janet Crosby, DVM, and About.com Guide to Veterinary Medicine, humans in at-risk occupations should also be vaccinated: "High risk workers, such as veterinary staff, animal control officers and the like should also be vaccinated, and have their titers checked as recommended by their physician."
World Rabies Day was established to help increase awareness of this threat. The threat is very real, because even in some urban areas, the common carriers of rabies are found: raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Bats are particularly dangerous, as they often fly down chimneys into homes, particularly at night. Dr. Crosby also relates a couple of stories about these incidents. We can take some common-sense precautions to protect our cats and dogs, as well as ourselves:
- Have our pets vaccinated against rabies regularly
It's the law in most states in the U.S. And yes, cats can get rabies too.
- Avoid contact with wild animals
Even the friendliest raccoon can be rabid.
- Report strange-acting animals to animal control
A list of symptoms can be found on the CDC site.
- Never touch a dead animal
Instead, call animal control.
Read About Rabies in Dogs
Learn About Rabies in Africa