September 28th is the annual celebration of World Rabies Day. Promoted by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, this day raises rabies awareness. In 2017, the theme “Rabies: Zero By 30,” highlights a common goal of eliminating human deaths from canine rabies by 2030, an agreement supported by the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Global Alliance for Rabies Control.
Keys to Reaching Zero By 30
Rabies is an entirely preventable disease. By vaccinating our pets, we prevent rabies from entering our homes. In the United States, we have been successful in decreasing rabies in pets by mandatory vaccination programs. The same is not true worldwide and 50 to 60 thousand humans die of rabies annually. Most are under 15 years of age and nearly all contract rabies from a dog bite.
In New York State, there were no canine rabies cases recorded in 2012-2014, and the same is true for New York City. Cats are a different matter and both New York State and City have seen feline rabies cases during the same time periods. If we eliminate the risk of rabies in our pets, we are safer from the disease.
In New York State and City, more cases of rabies are found in wildlife than in domestic animals. While that raccoon you spy in Central Park is really cute, getting close enough to give it a snack is a really bad idea. In other parts of the country, bats, skunks and foxes are the wildlife reservoir of rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a significant number of the human rabies infections diagnosed in the United States are actually contracted outside the country from foreign dogs and wildlife. So it is not just our wildlife you should avoid, but also the wild animals you see when you travel.
Pet owner responsibility
Rabies laws vary from state to state. To check the requirements in your state, go to rabiesaware.org, a website compiling rabies information on a state by state basis. On this website you can check the rabies laws for your state and also the rabies surveillance data. Rabies vaccination provides critical protection not only for your pet, but also your family by decreasing the risk of human exposure to a rabid animal. In a recent New York Daily News article, the anti-vaccination movement may be spreading to pet owners. The 2015 current measles outbreak was thought to be fueled by unvaccinated children. In most states, puppies and kittens can be vaccinated for rabies as young as 12 weeks of age, so do your part in reaching Zero By 30 and make sure your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccination.