Rabies Awareness: Zero By 30
Run Those Dogs cares deeply about the health and safety of pet families. This year, September 28 is World Rabies Day. Rabies causes thousands of human deaths every year in over 100 countries. Most of those are in under-served communities with limited access to health and veterinary systems. This day was created and is coordinated annually by Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) to increase community awareness of the disease and its prevention in rabies-endemic countries. In 2015, the World Health Organization, World Organisation for Animal Health, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and GARC set a common goal of zero human deaths from canine rabies by 2030. Since then GARC launched a year-round campaign to reach that goal called Zero by 30.
Rabies is a virus found in dogs, cats, bats, and rarely in raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. Its primarily transmitted in saliva through a bite wound. It then travels along the peripheral nerves to the brain. The animal does not appear sick during this time, called the incubation period. Once the virus reaches the brain, the animal quickly becomes symptomatic and dies fairly quickly after that, usually within 7 days or less.
Sad but True Rabies Facts
- An estimated 59,000 people die of rabies each year, primarily in Africa and Asia. The virus is present on every continent except Antarctica.
- About 40% of rabies-related deaths are in children under the age of 15.
- Animals that have the virus may still appear calm or tame.
- Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.
- About 90% of cases in the U.S. are from wildlife. Bats are the main transmitters of the virus in the Americas, but 95% of all rabies cases are transmitted by dogs in the rest of the world.
- Its estimated that about 6% of all bats in the U.S. have rabies.
Control of rabies requires community participation, education and public awareness, access to vaccination of dogs, and access to post-bite treatment.
To help reduce the prevalence of the virus in the U.S. that means we must:
- eradicate the disease from dogs through vaccination,
- increase access to affordable vaccines in the U.S. and around the world,
- teach children how to avoid animal bites and to respond appropriately when bitten,
- support organizations and initiatives that provide human rabies vaccinations and mass dog vaccinations in under-served countries.
Unless your pet’s health prevents it, get your pet vaccinated and stay current on boosters. Many cities and counties throughout the U.S. that require dogs to be licensed also require vaccination.
You can also “bat-proof” your home to keep the virus away with these tips.
Should We Harm Bats?
No. Bats are a critical part of our natural ecosystems. Bats are good for the environment because:
- They actually help reduce transmission of some other diseases because they eat an incredible number of insects each night.
- Many bat species pollinate the fruits and seeds we eat. Losing them could mean losing food species.
- Bats that eat seeds are critical in the reproductive life cycle of many plants because they spread the seeds to new locations.
- Bat droppings (guano) is a great fertilizer (although humans and their pets should avoid contacting it).
In the U.S., doing our part to reach Zero By 30 is to vaccinate our pets and be wise about exposure to bats and other affected wild animals. Discuss vaccination with your veterinarian and watch for low-cost vaccination promotions in your community.