World Rabies Day

September 28 marks World Rabies Day. Rabies remains a major concern worldwide, killing more than 55,000 people every year. In the United States, one to two people die annually, and there were more than 6,000 reported cases of animal rabies in the U.S.. in 2014.

What is rabies?  

Rabies is a disease that affects the brain. It's usually passed from animal to animal but it can be passed from animals to people. Rabies is caused by a virus, and any mammal can contract rabies. The virus can only be passed to another animal or a person through saliva (it cannot be passed through blood). When there is a bite from an animal with rabies, the virus attaches to healthy nerve cells, eventually making its way to the brain. There the virus can cause the brain and spinal cord to swell, and the animal or person with rabies may exhibit symptoms or go into a coma. If the disease is not prevented, it will cause death.  

How do they test for rabies?

Unfortunately, the only way to test for rabies in an suspect animal is through brain tissue sampling. This means euthanasia of the animal in question. However, if your pet has an up-to-date rabies vaccine and inflicts a wound on someone, it is not required to test brain tissue (though, your pet may be placed under quarantine for a period of time). This is one of the many reasons why it's crucial to vaccinate your pets against rabies!   

How is rabies prevented?

The best way to prevent rabies is to keep your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Also, steering clear of wildlife that may be exhibiting any abnormal behaviors such as aggression, or violent movements is important. When visiting areas where wildlife coexists, always keep a close watch on your cat or dog to be sure that they are safe. Rabies is 100% preventable when the correct measures are taken!

For more information about World Rabies Day, check out these articles from the AMVA and the CDC.

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