Eliminating Rabies Across the World
September 20, 2012
World Rabies Day is September 28, 2012.It is a day to raise
awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies. More than
55,000 people die from rabies worldwide every year, a rate of one
person every 10 minutes. This is an astonishing number, especially
because rabies in humans in 100 per cent preventable. Most of these
cases are transmitted to humans by dogs.
World Rabies Day events have been held in 150 countries, and
have vaccinated 7.7 million dogs to date. World Rabies Day was
created in 2006 by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The
Alliance consisted of researchers and professionals involved with
human and animal healthcare, including Dr. Leon Russell, professor
in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
Russell explained that the goal of World Rabies Day is to reduce
the amount of rabies cases throughout the world by ensuring
adequate animal vaccination and control, educating people who may
be at risk, and increasing access to appropriate medical care for
those bitten by rabies infected animals. For more information
about getting animals vaccinated on World Rabies Day in your area,
please contact your local veterinarian.
While there are various strains of rabies, dogs are the primary
source for transmission to humans across the globe. However, canine
rabies virus strain has been eradicated in the United States
because of proper and complete vaccination procedures.
"Our hope is to eliminate canine rabies across the globe,"
Russell said. "Rabies is completely preventable. We want people to
understand the importance of vaccinating against the disease. But
while canine rabies has been eliminated, there are still treats to
humans and pets in the United States, so people, particularly pet
owners need to take precautions."
Dogs and cats contract rabies primarily from skunks, raccoons,
and bats in the United States. These canine and feline pets serve
as "bridge animals" or carriers of rabies between wildlife hosts
and people. Russell explained that if you suspect your dog or cat
has been exposed to a rabid animal, you should take your pet to a
While Russell says that it is good to be aware of potentially
rabid bats, skunks, and raccoons, nothing is as effective in
preventing rabies as vaccination of your canine and feline
"There are two types of vaccines. One protects pets for one
year, the other for three years," Russell said. "They are both
great vaccines, and sometimes local ordinances or price dictates
which one pet owners choose - but regardless, pets should always be
routinely vaccinated against rabies."
In addition to dogs and cats, Russell recommends vaccinating
cattle and equines as well. While dogs and cats predominantly
contract rabies from various wildlife species (skunks, raccoons,
bats), horses and cattle most often contract rabies from
"Horses that are stalled, particularly at night, should be
vaccinated," Russell said. "We've seen cases of horses that
contract rabies from a skunk that gets into the stall; it isn't
common, but it does happen. It's better to be safe than sorry when
it comes to rabies. Vaccinating your animals is the best
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