September 28 is World Rabies Day, a global health observance that seeks to raise awareness about rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts. First co-sponsored by CDC and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) in 2007, World Rabies Day has been celebrated in countries throughout the world, including the U.S.
World Rabies Day is an excellent time to take steps that can help prevent and control rabies, such as vaccinating pets including dogs and cats and providing education on how to avoid the animals that typically transmit rabies: raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes.
What can YOU do? Vaccinate your animals and keep them away from wildlife that can spread the disease. Rabies is 100% preventable.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases can pass between species. Bird flu and swine flu are other zoonotic diseases.
The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system causing severely distressing neurological symptoms before causing the victim to die.
Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate.
Is rabies always fatal?
Yes, it is always fatal once clinical symptoms appear. However, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) stops the virus before clinical symptoms appear, if given immediately after exposure (from a bite or scratch of a rabid animal).
How is rabies transmitted?
Rabies is usually transmitted through the saliva of the host animal (or person), usually via a bite or scratch.
Most human cases (90%) are caused by exposure from an infected dog. However bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes are also known to be important resevoirs of the disease.
Other, rare forms of transmission are when saliva comes into contact with mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), through inhalation of aerosolized saliva, and through corneal and internal organ transplantation.
Eating raw meat or other tissues from rabid animals (while not advisable) does not transmit the infection. But this does not give any protection against rabies either.
There have been cases where butchering raw meat from rabid animals has transmitted the infection, presumably through infectious nervous tissue coming into contact with wounds in the skin.