There are a lot of myths about rabies – and those myths could be deadly. September 28 is World Rabies Day, so please take a moment to look at some facts:
- Rabies is a zoonotic disease; that is, it can be transmitted from animals to humans.
- More than 55,000 people die of rabies each year – that’s one every ten minutes.
- 40% of those deaths are children under 15 years of age, because they are the most likely to be bitten by a dog.
- Each year, more than 15 million people around the world receive a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the disease, and according to the World Health Organization, these vaccines prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths
- Once someone develops symptoms, rabies is nearly always fatal, so it is crucial to clean the wound and receive the immunization within a few hours after contact.
- People are usually infected by a bite or scratch from an infected animal, and dogs are still the main source of rabies cases. Humans can also get rabies if infected saliva comes into contact with a fresh wound or a mucous membrane.
Special Note about Bats
Bats are a very common source of rabies in humans, particularly in North America. Bats with rabies often don’t fly well, so when they are found in gardens and homes during the day, people may pick them up thinking they are helping an injured animal. Since bats have very tiny teeth and their bites don’t hurt much, people may not even know they’ve been bitten. If you ever wake up in a room with a bat, or find a child or any person who can’t tell you what happened in a room with a bat, seek health care assistance immediately.
If You Are Bitten
- Immediately clean the wound by flushing and washing the wound for 15 minutes with soap and water or iodine.
- Call your doctor, local clinic, or emergency room to get the post-exposure vaccination as soon as possible. Better yet, have someone else call while you are washing the wound.
An Ounce of Prevention
- The best way to prevent rabies is through vaccination of pets – particularly dogs. If you have any questions about your pets’ immunizations, contact your veterinarian.
- People who work in high-risk occupations, such as animal control and kennel workers, laboratory workers, and so on, can get pre-exposure vaccinations.
- Keep children and pets away from wild animals and pets you don’t know. Keep garbage secure and don’t leave food outdoors to avoid attracting wild animals.
- Bat-proof your home.
- Contact animal control to report stray or ill animals.
According to the World Health Organization, rabies can be eradicated simply through vaccinating dogs. So do your part to protect your pet, your family – and the world! For more information about rabies and World Rabies Day, visit the Global Alliance for Rabies Control website.