Think you don’t have to worry about rabies? Unfortunately, you do!
As recently as this month, two cases were reported in Utah after exposure from a rabid, dead bat. Although the prevalence of rabies has declined dramatically in the United States, there are an estimated 55,000 human deaths annually from rabies worldwide.
Many of us just know that we vaccinate our pets for rabies. However, what is rabies, really? How is it contracted and what are the symptoms? Here’s 10 surprising facts about rabies including symptoms.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a contagious virus. People usually contract rabies from a bite or broken skin after exposure to an alive or dead animal. The virus travels from the wound to the brain, where it causes swelling, or inflammation.
What Are the Symptoms of Rabies?
- Excessive salivation
Here are some facts you may not know about rabies.
- Rabies used to be prevalent in domestic animals. Now with vaccinations, it is more prevalent among wildlife. Skunks, mongoose, bats, raccoons, wolves, coyotes, cows, cats, weasels, groundhogs, and foxes have the highest incidence of rabies.
- Although any mammal (an animal that suckles its young) can transmit the virus, smaller mammals such as rodents very rarely become infected or transmit rabies.
- Cats, dogs and ferrets can be vaccinated against rabies.
- According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of deaths from rabies amongst humans in the United States has declined from 100 people annually to two.
- The top five states for rabies is California, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana and Wisconsin. Asia and has the most human deaths from rabies, specifically India which has the highest rate of human rabies in the world primarily due to stray dogs..
- If your dog is bit by a wild animal or bat, take him to the vet immediately. If possible, call your local Animal Control authorities to safely capture the animal in question. NEVER touch a wild animal, either dead or alive, that you suspect could have the disease. A special test called immunofluorescence will be used to look at the brain tissue after an animal is dead.
- At the time of a bite, there is no way to tell for sure whether an animal is rabid, or whether it has infected you.
- If a human is bit by a suspected rabid animal, treatment includes a preventative vaccine that includes 5 doses over 28 days that is administered close to the bite wound. Additionally, a treatment called human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) is administered the day the bite occurred.
- If treatment is not received and symptoms begin to appear, death from respiratory failure is almost always inevitable. That’s why prevention is so important.
- If you are traveling to a country with a high incidence of rabies, you should consider getting the vaccine in advance.
As responsible dog owners, we owe it to our dogs to have them vaccinated. Most dogs have their initial vaccination at 3 months, another vaccination one year later, then a booster shot every third year. Vaccination laws vary by state, and can be found on the National Vaccine Information website. Keep your pets healthy!