Sepetember 28th is World Rabies Day, a day aimed at “raising awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent it, and how to eliminate the main global sources.” This mission was mapped out by a group of researchers and professionals from the Allaiance for Rabies Control in 2006. At the onset of the inaugural celebration in 2007, the group was hoping to garner the support of 55,000 people — one supporter for each person that dies each year from rabies. This goal was far surpassed when nearly 400,000 people across the globe participated. Since 2007, World Rabies Day has been observed in 135 countries, with 150 million people educated about the disease and 4.6 million dogs vaccinated.
Rabies is rare in North America but figures suggest that it may be on the rise. The disease is most prevalent in Africa and Asia, where it is most commonly transferred to humans by dog bites. Children, who often play in the streets, are the most susceptible. Although rabies is 100% preventable if treated with prompt medical attention, once symptoms do present the disease is almost certainly a death sentence. Only six people in recorded history have survived rabies without receiving the vaccine immediately after initial contact. The World Rabies day initiative strives to eradicate rabies through animal vaccination and control, education of groups at risk, and advances in medical care.
Rabies is a frightening disease. Even the desensitized doctors who treat rabies cases concede that perishing from the virus is a horrific way to die. Symptoms include hysteria, hydrophobia, and an acute awareness of what is happening, and prevailing medical treatments strive only to keep patients as comfortable as possible during the short time from when the symptoms appear until certain death occurs. Knowing all this, I can’t count how many times I watched Old Yeller or Cujo as a child, and how grateful I was to know that our pets were vaccinated. In fact, one of the first things I did in honor of today’s “unofficial” was check the vet records for all four of our dogs to ensure that they are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations. I’m happy to report that all of our pups are current with their shots.