— It’s tragic that a disease as preventable as rabies continues to do so much damage around the world.
Perhaps the oldest recognized infectious disease, and quite possibly the first known disease transmissible from animals to people, rabies in humans can be eliminated but still kills more than 55,000 people each year worldwide.
That’s why veterinarians and public health officials are once again looking to World Rabies Day to help educate the public, and especially pet owners, about the dangers of the disease and the importance of vaccination.
“Vaccinating dogs and cats is the best way to protect pets and the public from contracting what is almost always a fatal disease once symptoms occur,” said Dr. Larry R. Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “By taking this simple step, you help make for a safer, healthier pet, family and community.”
Now in its third year, World Rabies Day will be held Sept. 28, 2009, when hundreds of groups from Phoenix, Ariz., to the Philippines host special events, vaccination clinics and educational programs to raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent it, and how to eliminate the main global sources.
While rabies is easy to prevent in domestic animals, more work needs to be done here at home to ensure that pet owners are doing all they can in the fight against the disease. Unfortunately, cats are less likely than dogs to be vaccinated against rabies, and as a result, Dr. Corry explains, cat owners are more likely to be exposed to the virus.
“AVMA research shows that cats go to the veterinarian for exams and vaccinations far too infrequently compared to dogs,” Dr. Corry says. “A survey we conducted indicates that more than a third of cat-owning households didn’t visit the veterinarian, whereas less than a fifth of dog-owning households fell into the same category. Pet owners owe it to themselves and their pets to make sure that we do all we can to prevent the spread of rabies.”
In addition to unvaccinated pets, exposure to stray animals increases the risk of rabies transmission. Be certain your pets do not roam free, and caution your children not to approach and/or pet stray animals or wildlife.
For more information, visit the AVMA’s World Rabies Day Web page, or go to the World Rabies Day Web site at www.worldrabiesday.org.