Did you know: Rabies causes tens of thousands of fatalities yearly, 40% of whom are children under 15?
Transmitted by a virus that spreads through the saliva of infected animals, rabies is a serious threat to you and your pet.
The good news is that it is 100% preventable.
This World Rabies Day, with the theme being “All for 1, One Health For All”, we are reminded that we must all collaborate and contribute to make our vision of ‘One Health’ come true.
One Health is an approach that recognises the interconnection between the health of humans, animals, and the environment, and the need for integrated interventions to prevent and control diseases that affect them. Rabies is considered a model disease for the application of One Health, as it requires the collaboration of different disciplines and sectors, such as public health, veterinary medicine, wildlife management, education, and community engagement.
As pet owners, we have a responsibility to help make the world safer.
So, here is a guide to help you and your pet stay healthy this World Rabies Day!
Some Things To Know About Rabies
- Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. The only way to prevent rabies is to avoid exposure and seek immediate medical attention after a possible exposure.
- Rabies can be diagnosed. Rabies can be diagnosed by testing samples from the suspected animal or person. It is important to report any animal bite or scratch to a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- Rabies can be eliminated. It is a preventable disease that can be eliminated by vaccinating dogs and other animals that can transmit the virus to humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a global goal of zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.
- Rabies is not just transmitted by bites. While bites are the most common vehicle of transmission, the virus itself is passed through an infected animal’s saliva.
Any animal may have rabies. Any mammal can get rabies, including domestic animals like dogs, cats, horses, and cows.
What to do if you have been bitten by an animal?
Animal bites need proper care and attention. If you have been bitten by an animal, you should follow these steps:
- Get away from the animal and move to a safe area.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. This will help remove any germs or dirt from the wound.
- Apply pressure with a clean cloth or bandage if the bite is bleeding.
- Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment to the bite area and cover it with a sterile bandage or gauze to prevent infection and further damage.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
It also helps to keep a record of the date, time, location, and circumstances of the exposure, as well as the type and description of the animal that bit you.
Rabies Prevention: What You Can Do As a Responsible Pet Owner
1. Vaccinate your pets
Vaccinating your pets regularly not only prevents rabies, but also protects you and the community from the risk of infection.
It reduces the chances of them biting someone or getting bitten by a rabid animal. It also helps control the spread of rabies among wildlife populations.
Rabies vaccinations are given as injections in your pet’s arm or leg. You should consult your veterinarian about the recommended schedule and frequency of rabies vaccinations for your pets.
2. Supervise your pet outdoors
Do not let your pet roam freely or interact with wild animals. Keep your pet on a leash or in a fenced area. Avoid contact with stray animals, especially dogs. You should also secure your trash cans and pet food to prevent attracting wild animals to your property.
3. Reduce the stray population
Call your local animal control centre to spay/ neuter stray animals from your neighbourhood. This will prevent unwanted litters and dog population from growing excessively.
4. Be wary of wild animals
Stay away from wild animals that may carry rabies, such as bats, foxes, etc.
You should never feed, touch, or approach any wild animal, especially if it is acting strangely or aggressively.
Call your local wildlife authority if you see an animal acting unusually. They can help capture and test the animal for rabies and take appropriate measures to protect the public health.
5. Prevent bats from entering your home
Seal any openings or cracks that may allow bats to enter your living quarters. Use screens on windows and doors. Check your attic, basement, and chimney for signs of bats.
If you find a bat in your home, do not touch it. Contact a professional to remove it safely.
6. Be careful when you travel abroad
Some countries have higher rates of rabies than others.
Before you travel, consult with a doctor or a travel clinic about the risk of exposure to rabies and the need for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PEP, a preventive rabies vaccine).
Avoid contact with animals in areas where rabies is common. Get medical help right away if you are exposed to rabies while travelling.
Remember, rabies is fatal but preventable.
We have all the vaccines, medicines, tools, and technologies in the world to prevent it. Let’s use them consciously and stay safe from this deadly disease.
Happy World Rabies Day!