MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES – An estimated 59,000 people worldwide die of rabies each year after an infected dog is bitten or scratched World health organization; almost half of them are children under 15 years of age. You can protect your human and animal family members with preventive measures, including vaccinations.
In much of the world, rabies remains a serious health problem. Of the estimated 900 million dogs worldwide, most (75-85%) are not pets. In countries where rabies is a persistent threat and the outbreaks persist, dogs, both your own and someone else’s, can be at risk if they are not vaccinated against rabies. Many areas where outbreaks of rabies persist have limited access to resources and vaccines, and awareness and education about the disease are often low.
Know what rabies is and how it is transmitted
Rabies is a virus Zoonosis (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans) that causes deadly inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in not only wildlife but also domestic animals and humans. The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite or scratch. Domestic dogs are responsible for rabies infections in humans in up to 99% of cases.
How long it takes for rabies symptoms to show up depends on the distance the virus has to travel from the site of the sting to the brain. If someone is bitten on a toe it can take weeks or even months to show symptoms, but if their face is bitten, he or she can become rabid in a matter of days.
Once symptoms are present, the disease is 100% fatal. Symptoms include anxiety, confusion, partial paralysis, agitation, aggression, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, fear of water, and ultimately paralysis, coma, and death.
Beware of unknown dogs
In general, it is best not to approach unfamiliar dogs. This is especially true for dogs that sleep, eat, or care for puppies, as they can scare or protect when they sense a threat. When you meet a dog you don’t know Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against running and screaming and instead suggests avoiding direct eye contact and remaining motionless. Pay attention to warning behaviors such as growling, snapping, showing teeth, standing hair on the back, ears back, and rigid posture.
Make sure your dogs are vaccinated
Vaccinating dogs makes rabies 100% preventable. You can do your part by making sure your dog is kept up to date on their rabies vaccination, which is given by a veterinarian in either a yearly or a three-year dose.
Get medical help immediately
If someone has been bitten or scratched by a rabid dog and may have been exposed to rabies, vaccination may be part of treatment. However, it is important to immediately wash the wound with soap and running water for 15 minutes. This can help remove and inactivate viruses that may have been inoculated. The post-exposure vaccination course will depend on your previous vaccination history, so you will need to consult your doctor or go to the emergency room for immediate medical attention.
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