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Veterinary Community Recognizes World Rabies Day 2010

0 Comments Posted by Mark Feltz in Veterinary Medicine on Friday, September 24th, 2010.

In order to promote global recognition of the threat Rabies still poses to humans and companion pets, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.K.-based Alliance for Rabies Control have declared September 28 as World Rabies Day. This year marks the fourth year of this annual event.

World Rabies Day is designed to reach millions of people across the world to reinforce the message that Rabies is a preventable disease that still kills more than 55,000 people worldwide each year. Half of those killed are children under the age of 15.

Rabies is primarily a disease of children, who are particularly at risk from this terrible disease, due to their close contact with dogs, the major global source, said Dr. Debbie Briggs, Executive Director of the Alliance for Rabies Control. Children are more likely to suffer multiple bites and scratches to the face and head, both of which carry a higher risk of contracting rabies. Children are often unaware of the danger that dogs transmit rabies and may not tell their parents when a bite, lick, or scratch has occurred from an infected animal.

Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted to animals and humans. The disease is transmitted mainly by bite, but exposure may also occur through contamination of broken skin or mucous membranes with saliva from an infected animal. Once neurological symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is fatal to both animals and humans.

According to the CDC, rabies in the U.S. is primarily carried by raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes with most instances of human exposure associated with contact with a bat. In fact, the CDC warns that if you wake up to find a bat in the room or find an infant or disabled person in the same room as a bat, there is a concern an exposure to rabies may have occurred. If possible, the bat can be caught and tested. In any event, it is important to speak to a medical professional such as a doctor or emergency room physician as soon as possible.

Areas with the highest incidence of infected animals in 2009 were Texas, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. Of these infections, wild animals composed 93 percent of all cases with domestic animals representing seven percent.

Of the 510 domestic animals to be infected, cats by far made up the majority of cases (59 percent), dogs were 16 percent, and the remainder is cattle, horses, goats and sheep.

In 2009, there were only four human infections. Three of these were fatal. Further, between 2000 and 2009 there were 31 cases of human infections with only two survivors. In most cases where an exposure occurs, the person is aware they have come into contact with a rabid animal and seeks medical care. However, for these 31 infected people, they were unaware of exposure and did not seek medical attention until symptoms appeared.

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