In an effort to raise awareness about rabies and its effect on the health of people and animals, for the past decade September 28th has been recognized as World Rabies Day.
Most of us in North America are insulated from the threat of this deadly disease, and have little knowledge of the impact of rabies in other countries. Worldwide, rabies is currently responsible for an estimated 59,000 human deaths a year, almost all transmitted via dog bites, and almost all in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Up to 60% of all rabies deaths are children under the age of 15. Very few victims have access to the palliative care that would alleviate the suffering of their final days. However, despite its almost 100% case fatality rate, canine rabies is completely preventable with modern vaccines.
Dogs are also victims of rabies. Not only are they subject to the disease’s horrific clinical symptoms, estimates suggest millions of dogs are killed in culls every year in misguided attempts to control the disease. Dog vaccination stops rabies, culls do not.
In Ontario, very few dogs suffer from rabies at this time. However, this is likely due to the fact that the main animals that carry rabies in this province have traditionally been foxes, skunks, and the occasional bat. In addition, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have conducted rabies bait dropping programs for years. BUT, in December 2015, raccoon rabies entered the province, in the Hamilton area. As of September 14, 2016, there have been 187 cases of this strain of rabies identified in skunks and raccoons. So, the risk of exposure to rabies is rising in our area!
World Rabies Day is a day of action and of raising awareness. Elimination of rabies from dog sources is possible. This is why the theme of the 10th World Rabies Day is “EDUCATE. VACCINATE. ELIMINATE”. The goal is to completely eliminate human deaths from rabies by the year 2030!
To read more information about World Rabies Day, click here to go to the website for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. To follow the progress of the raccoon rabies outbreak in Ontario, click here.