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Global Rabies Prevention Initiative Starts Locally

Sept. 21, 2012

By Tara Lanier, 334-844-3698, tara.lanier@auburn.edu

AUBURN, Ala. – The Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine will be teaming up with international rabies experts to celebrate World Rabies Day on September 28. 

Founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alliance for Rabies Control, a UK charity, the World Rabies Day initiative aims to bring together relevant partners in an effort to address rabies prevention and control.  “This is a coordinated effort to let the world know that this disease can be readily prevented through education, pet vaccination and increased human awareness as to proper wound management and administration of rabies vaccination after an exposure has occurred,” said Dr. Deborah Briggs, executive director for the Alliance for Rabies Control.

In the United States, the greatest achievement in rabies control and prevention occurred half-a-century ago with effective implementation of dog vaccination, licensing and stray dog control. 

“We cannot let our guard down with rabies,” said Dr. James Wright, a professor in Auburn’s Department of Pathobiology, and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.  “Rabies is ever-present in wildlife which can expose our pets and possibly our family members.” 

It is estimated that every year 30,000-40,000 U.S. residents are potentially exposed to rabies requiring human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.  According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), annual rabies exposures and the number of animals testing positive remain relatively consistent.

ADPH usually reports between 80-100 positive cases tested per year that have exposed either humans or other animals. The vast majority of these cases are in raccoons and bats, but they also include other wildlife species such as foxes and coyotes.  Rabies in wildlife remains the main source of exposure for pets and other domestic animals, which can then be a risk to humans. Keeping pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets current on rabies vaccinations is vital in protecting humans and animals. 

“Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner,” Dr. Wright said.  “We recommend that people vaccinate dogs, cats, ferrets and any other animal that has regular contact with humans.” In the Southeast where rabies is common in raccoons and bats, vaccination of valuable livestock, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, is also a wise strategy.

Additional information is available online at worldrabiesday.org/.