27 September 2010

AVMA reminds pet owners to vaccinate pets for rabies

On September 28, deemed as World Rabies Day, AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) is reminding animal owners about the importance of vaccinating their pets for rabies and how to avoid exposure to the disease.

The goal of World Rabies Day, an international program that has led to the successful vaccination of 3 million animals, is to educate and prevent the potentially fatal viral infection of the nervous system.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) rabies has "the highest case fatality ratio of any infectious disease if prompt intervention is not initiated."

Although human rabies is rare, a recent CDC report published in the JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) shows that it is not impossible for humans to contract this disease. In the United States in 2009, three of the four reported cases of human rabies were fatal. In poorer areas of Africa and Asia, over 55,000 people were killed by rabies. Also during 2009, about 92 percent of reported rabid animals were wildlife, with the majority of cases involving raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.

AVMA president Dr. Larry Kornegay states, "Most of us recognize the dangers associated with rabies. Even though reported cases of rabies in humans are rare in the U.S., we need to remain vigilant in our efforts to control the disease. Every year, we continue to see rabies in pets, livestock, horses and wildlife. And the truth of the matter is, we can prevent most of these cases."

Once the infected mammal shows advanced signs of rabies, there is no treatment to cure the illness which is why the public needs to take precautions when handling unfamiliar animals.

Animal owners can help control rabies by having veterinarians vaccinate their pets, as well as not letting their pets roam free. Cats and ferrets should be kept indoors, and dogs should be closely supervised while outside.

Dr. Kornegay says, "If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to the city or county animal-control department. Never take matters into your own hands."

Thankfully, as more information about the dangers of rabies is known, more organizations are taking action to prevent it.

For more details about rabies, visit the AVMA's World Rabies Day web page.

Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/qole