bringing attention to a deadly yet preventable disease

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Sep 28 2011

September 28 is World Rabies Day, an annual event to bring attention to the disease and how it affects humans and their pets, and to emphasize how easy it is to prevent this deadly disease. It seems unbelievable that each year, nearly 55,000 people die from rabies--that’s 150 people a day! While it’s true that the majority of these cases are outside of the United States, it is important to be aware that rabies does occur here, too.

We’ve talked about rabies in previous blogs, but let’s just go over the basics quickly. Rabies infects both domestic animals, like our dogs and cats, and wild animals. It is transmitted through contact with infected saliva, most often from bites, and the majority of the disease in the United States is found in skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes.

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Once you or your pet has been bitten by an infected animal, the rabies virus travels from the bite wound through the nerves and to the brain. This incubation period varies from one week to one year, though most cases reach the brain between one and three months after a bite. Once the virus reaches the brain, symptoms of the disease are apparent. Unfortunately, once symptoms occur, rabies is fatal.

If you or your pet have been bitten by an animal suspected of having rabies, it is vital to seek medical attention right away. If your pet was bitten, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so that he or she can make sure your pet’s rabies vaccine is up to date and go over the rabies exposure protocol in your state. If you were bitten, call your physician to discuss getting the post-exposure vaccine.

Rabies is deadly, but it is preventable. World Rabies Day is a perfect day to check your pets’ medical records to make sure their rabies vaccine is current. If you aren’t sure, call your veterinarian’s office to find out.

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