Understanding World Rabies Day
Thursday, September 28th, 2023, was World Rabies Day. World Rabies Day was created to bring awareness to the world’s DEADLIEST infectious disease. 60,000 people die from rabies each year, most of which are bitten by rabid dogs. In the United States thanks to strict vaccination protocol of pets, 90% of rabies infections are in wildlife, only about 1% of infections are dogs.
The Threat of Rabies in Humans
Rabies in Humans
Rabies affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. It is spread when saliva contacts the eyes, mouth, or open wounds. Symptoms usually appear 2-3 months after exposure but can appear anywhere from 1 week to 1 year after exposure. Once symptoms appear it is too late, there is 100% fatality.
Types of Human Rabies Infections
There are two different types of rabies infections in humans, furious and paralytic. Furious symptoms include hyperactivity, excitable behavior, hallucinations, lack of coordination, fear of water, fear of fresh air, and then death by heart and respiratory failure. Paralytic symptoms begin with paralysis of the wound site, gradually worsening until the patient goes into a coma. Knowledge of exposure to a rabid animal is the only way to confirm infection until after death. After death brain tissue can be examined to confirm cause of death.
Swift Response to Rabies Exposure
If a human is exposed to a rabid animal, they must be quickly treated. Their wound must be washed very extensively, for at least 15 minutes with soap and water then treated appropriately. There is a series of vaccines given, and in some cases, administration of rabies immunoglobulin may be called for.
International Travelers and Rabies Risk
70% of human rabies deaths in the United States are from bats. However, international travelers should be aware of the threat of rabid dogs in other countries. Exercise caution when approached by stray cats or dogs or wildlife. If the animals seem generally unwell, drooling excessively, are staggering/moving strangely, snapping at objects you cannot see, have difficulty swallowing, seem aggressive or if wild animals seem too friendly, contact animal control, and stay inside. If you find a dead bat, or a bat on the ground, beware.
The Legal Obligation: Rabies Vaccination
Rabies is 100% PREVENTABLE. By law ALL CATS AND DOGS IN ILLINOIS MUST BE VACCINATED FOR RABIES. Even indoor-only pets are at risk! By declining a rabies vaccination, you are violating the law and putting your family at risk. In 2021, 40 cases of rabies, all in wildlife, were reported in Illinois. Nationwide in 2021, 37 dogs and 216 cats tested positive for rabies. During 2023 several bats in central Illinois have tested positive for rabies, more than previous years. This year there was puppy in New Mexico that contracted rabies, it was euthanized and 6 people had to be treated for rabies after exposure. Also, this year in New York a rabid raccoon attacked a family dog and bit one of the dog’s owners.
Please take the time to update rabies vaccines for all pets in your care. When an unvaccinated pet comes into contact with rabies, they put their owners at risk too. Here at Wags and Whiskers Veterinary Service, a rabies vaccination and rabies vaccine exam are relatively inexpensive, less than $50 per pet. Depending on what county you live in, we may have tags available for purchase as well. Don’t let your pet or family members become a tragic fatality.