September 28th is World Rabies Day

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The World Rabies Day, September 28th, is a day meant to spread the word about rabies, the oldest and deadliest disease known to mankind.

The Alliance for Rabies Control, along with other human and animal health organizations worldwide, started the World Rabies Day in 2006. The goal of their campaign across the world is to reinforce the message that rabies is a preventable disease.

In spite of rabies being a preventable disease, it kills 55,000 people needlessly each year, half of which are children under the age of 15.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals (animal and human) most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Domestic animals account for less than 10% of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle, and dogs most often reported rabid.

“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”, says Briggs.

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

Rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

The good news is that rabies is easily preventable. Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner. Protect yourself, your pet and your community by taking animals to be vaccinated.

Avoid stray animals and wildlife. If you are bitten, wash bite wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. If your pet is bitten, consult your veterinarian immediately. Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten and before the disease develops can stop rabies infection and/or prevent the disease in humans and animals.

The World Rabies Day initiative also raises money towards local rabies prevention and control programs, with eight projects funded since 2008. “Through the World Rabies Day campaign we continue to engage all the major stakeholders associated with rabies to take action”, says Costa. “We invite everyone to join the team that is Making Rabies History!”

More information on World Rabies Day can be found at the official web site, www.worldrabiesday.org. You can view educational videos here.

Sources
World Rabies Day 2010
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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