Whether it’s the cost or the inconvenience of making a vet visit, some pets are still going without vaccinations. At the very least, your pet should be protected by having a rabies vaccination, along with yearly exams by a veterinarian, especially pets who may spend time outdoors, and who may encounter wild animals who may be carrying the rabies virus.
Prevention is so important that, in some cases, pets can’t travel outside of the U.S. without strict protocols being followed to quarantine the animal, usually for six months. The time period of confinement is to ensure that no rabies virus is harbored in a pet.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov), Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is rabies-free.
The CDC cites specifically: in 2010, Pennsylvania reported the largest number of rabid domestic animals (72) for any state, followed by New York (51). Also in 2010, approximately 1.1% of cats and 0.3% of dogs tested for rabies were found positive.
The rabies virus can live in saliva, and is often spread through the bite of a rabid animal. If your pet has had its regular shots, including rabies, it will already have some antibodies against the virus, and has a better chance of surviving if appropriate measures are taken immediately. Any bite from another animal, especially a wild animal, should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. A rabies booster shot can then be given to help stimulate more antibodies for a pet’s protection.
In the U.S., mandatory rabies vaccinations of dogs and cats and other animals can account for the low rate of infection from rabies in this country.
In other parts of the world, where rabies vaccinations are not required or enforcement is lax, there are an estimated 50,000 deaths a year, worldwide, that are attributed to rabies.
The World Health Organization recently noted that a dog rabies vaccine bank for South Eastern African countries is being established that “will greatly ensure availability of vaccines to support dog immunization campaigns” in Kwa Zulu Natal and south Western Tanzania, as well as in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is being funded by the 2009 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) rabies project.
The CDC states that most of the world’s rabies-related deaths are in Asia where the vaccination rate has been typically very low (about three percent).
In China, in recent years, mass euthanization of dogs has been utilized to counter the spread of rabies after it was found that human deaths from the virus had increased.
Rabies is an important subject to discuss with all members of your family, especially if you own a pet that is allowed outdoors.
Children should know not to touch nor go near any unfamiliar pet, and to avoid any animal that is acting peculiarly or menacingly.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/pets or call SC Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing division for information about rabies at 292-5910.