Health and Family Services Cabinet
World Rabies Day on Sept. 8 Aims to Draw Attention to Preventable Disease
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is joining the Alliance for Rabies Control to mark Sept. 8 as World Rabies Day, to focus attention on this entirely preventable disease.
It’s estimated that more than 55,000 people die from rabies each year, approximately one person every 10 minutes, with most deaths occurring in Africa and Asia. Worldwide, more people die from rabies than from polio, diphtheria and yellow fever combined.
“World Rabies Day offers us a unique opportunity to highlight the rabies prevention and control efforts in our community, while teaming up with people around the world toward a common goal,” said Dr. Michael Auslander, state public health veterinarian at DPH.
The most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. This cause of rabies in humans can be eliminated. Comprehensive and coordinated rabies vaccination of dogs will result in the elimination of dog-associated strains or types of rabies viruses. When rabies is eliminated in animals, human exposures from this source can no longer occur.
“It is extremely important that we vaccinate all dogs and cats in order to maintain this invisible barrier between rabid wildlife and humans,” said Auslander.
Human rabies has become rare in the U.S. due to the elimination of dog rabies and the use of modern, effective antirabies immunization products given after a bite from a suspected or known rabid animal. Over 6,000 cases of wildlife rabies, primarily in bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, still exist in the U.S., and these result in human and animal exposures requiring thousands of human rabies post-exposure treatments and animal euthanasias or quarantines.
The personal impact of rabies can be enormous. The bite of a rabid dog can lead to months of anxiety while victims are unsure whether rabies may develop. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies because they are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be bitten in high-risk areas of the body, such as the head and neck. There is no known medical cure once clinical symptoms of rabies are present. Symptoms include strange sensations at the site of the bite from a rabid animal, hallucinations and fear of water, all of which are quickly followed by death.
Dogs and cats that come in contact with rabid wildlife and develop rabies are the usual source of rabies exposure to humans. In Kentucky, there have been no human rabies cases from exposure to a rabid dog since dog vaccination became required by law in 1954.
For more information about rabies and World Rabies Day activities, visit the Alliance for Rabies Control Web site at www.rabiescontrol.org.