Friday was World Rabies Day, held annually to improve global awareness of the fatal disease and a plan to eradicate canine rabies, the main cause of human deaths, by 2030. This will be done through assertive canine vaccination programs and immediate care for humans that have suffered dog bites.
One of the great public health successes is that people in rich nations rarely worry about dying from rabies. Many don’t even worry about vaccinating their pets against the disease, although that is the foundation upon which our success against rabies is based.
This paw’d cast is a 4-minute excerpt from our KSCO program “Good Morning, Monterey Bay” from Friday. Sept. 28, the actual World Rabies Day. It features Dr. Pete Keesling, a San Martin veterinarian, and co-host Rosemary Chalmers. I would like to make two slight adjustments and one addition to their comments:
- Because rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, it can be caught from licks, scratches, or any physical contact with the animal. Touching a bat is reason enough to get vaccinated.
- If vaccinated within 4 days of exposure, the rabies vaccine is 100 percent effective on protecting humans. The vaccination process is much easier and simpler than it used to be. I received four injections — spread over two weeks — on my arm (always above the bite) and two larger injections in my hip. Hard to explain that as it was the top of my hipbone and injected from the side (not in my butt). The Kaiser injection clinic nurses are absolute pros and the injections were merely uncomfortable, not painful.
- The vaccinations can be expensive, but the alternative could be death. Every animal bite should be reported and discussed with your doctor. (Kaiser provides all vaccines for free, including my boosters and titer tests).
People in other parts of the world die horrible deaths from the universally fatal neurological disease. There are 55,000 rabies deaths recorded each year, largely in Africa and Asia. In many of these countries, feral dogs are the major vector and every bite occasions a trip to a rabies bite clinic — provided one is available. Once symptoms appear, the disease is always fatal. But it is also 100 percent preventable, even after exposure, if treated immediately.
In the Philippines, there are 500 animal bite centers for the treatment of people bitten by animals, yet the country still records 250 rabies deaths each year!
Here is an educational video from the Philippines:
I am not linking to another video that shows a man who has been placed in what looks like a jail cell to prevent him from spreading rabies that is killing him. He is getting palliative treatment, but the main goal is preventing other humans from being exposed. This video is on YouTube and after seeing it I was very troubled so I will not share it as a link.