The 28th September marks World Rabies Day. The aim of World Rabies Day is to bring about awareness of rabies in humans and animals and to provide information on how to prevent disease.
Rabies is a fatal disease in humans and animals and there is no treatment. Once humans develop symptoms of rabies, death is inevitable. Human rabies can be prevented in almost 100% of cases if correct post-exposure preventative treatment is given timeously following exposure to suspected rabid animals.
The rabies virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans through scratches, bites or licks on mucous membranes of the lips or eyes. The virus cannot be transmitted through intact skin, so touching, petting or being close to the animals is not a risk.
Preventative measures include the following:
Washing of the wound very well for at least 10 minutes with water or soap and water to wash out the virus, and a course of rabies vaccinations into the arm so that the person can make antibodies against the rabies virus. If there is a scratch with blood or a bite, the addition of concentrated rabies antibodies into the wound is important to immediately ‘neutralize’ the virus.
Not every bite poses a risk of rabies, but a bite or scratch from a stray animal or an animal that is sick or behaving strangely or an unprovoked attack would suggest a rabies risk. Dogs are the commonest source of rabies for humans, but cats, cattle, and mongoose are all important in transmission. People should avoid handling any stray animals. Most importantly, a key to rabies control is by ensuring that domestic animals are vaccinated. It is of critical importance that all dog and cat owners ensure that their animals are adequately vaccinated.
Some Rabies facts
- Every year 55,000 people die from rabies.
- Every 10 minutes one person dies from rabies.
- 100% of deaths from rabies can be prevented.
Educational materials and information on rabies are available on the World Rabies Day website at www.worldrabiesday.org.