Today, September 28th, is World Rabies Day. Rabies is an infectious virus that affects the central nervous system in mammals and is transmitted through the saliva of animals. Both humans and animals can contract the virus if they handle or get bitten by an infected animal. It is estimated that each year in the US about 40,000 people receive the rabies prevention treatment, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), because they may have been exposed to rabies. There is no cure to rabies and it is almost always fatal. Globally about 55,000 people die each year of rabies, mostly in Africa and Asia.
In the northeast, the most common rabid wildlife are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Although 90% of all rabid animals reported to the CDC are wild animals, most people are exposed to rabies because of a cat or a dog. Cats are also about three times more likely to be rabid than dogs are. For this reason, it is important to visit your veterinarian on a regular basis and make sure all rabies vaccinations are up-to-date for cats, dogs, and even ferrets. Giving your pet direct supervision while they are outdoors is also important in reducing exposure to rabies. Pets that have not gotten their rabies vaccine and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined for six month, or euthanized, because of their risk of getting rabies after the exposure.
Every US state (excluding Hawaii) requires all dogs and cats to get the rabies vaccination. They should then be subsequently revaccinated on an ongoing basis according to the directions of the vaccine manufacturer. Hawaii is the only US state that has not had any reported cases of rabies. Dogs and cats that are imported into Hawaii must be placed in quarantine. You can read more and view the laws for each state here or here.
World Rabies Day, since its launch in 2007, has helped to educate over 182 million people and vaccinated about 7.7 million dogs through events in 150 countries. To read more about World Rabies Day, visit their website at https://rabiesalliance.org/world-rabies-day.