Rabies Awareness Fact Sheet
World Rabies Day is September 28! In honor of this day of disease awareness, we have put together this fact sheet:
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain of infected individuals. It is a zoonotic (zo-NOT-ik) disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people. 99.9% of rabies cases are fatal.
What are the symptoms of rabies?
Rabies exhibits “flu-like” symptoms in early stages; fever, decreased energy level, and headaches are common. As the disease progresses, more significant neurologic symptoms often occur, including anxiety/ agitation, paralysis, aggression, extreme lethargy, and fear of water.
How is rabies transmitted?
Transmission occurs through contact with saliva or neural tissue from infected mammals. This usually results from bites or scratches, but it can also involve inhalation of aerosolized saliva. A few cases in the US have occurred through organ transplants.
Which animals spread rabies?
Most mammals can transmit rabies but certain species carry a higher exposure risk.
- Wild animals such as bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes are the leading cause of rabies exposure in the United States, while bats are the most important rabies vector in Washington State. It is estimated that 5-10% of bats tested in Washington have been found positive for rabies. In fact, two bats tested positive for rabies in the city of Seattle in summer 2013. Rodents are less likely to carry rabies, with the exception of woodchucks or groundhogs.
- Dogs are the primary vector for rabies worldwide. In the United States, high vaccination rates and population control (via spaying and neutering of strays and pets) has limited the risk for Rabies exposure through dogs.
- Cats can spread Rabies too! In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more cats than dogs tested were found to be positive for Rabies. This trend may occur because of a high number of stray cats or because cats are less likely to receive veterinary preventive care than their canine counterparts. In 2012 an unvaccinated cat from Georgia that lived only indoors tested positive for rabies, requiring its entire family to undergo post-exposure medical treatment.
How Can I Protect Myself?
- To protect your family, it is important to maintain an up-to-date rabies vaccination schedule for all household dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is the law! We will be happy to discuss the appropriate vaccination schedule for your pet.
- Do not approach wildlife. Call animal control if you notice any suspicious wildlife (ie raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes) around your property.
What To Do If You are Bitten or Scratched:
- If you are bitten or scratched by an unknown or wild animal, wash the wound vigorously with soap and water and seek urgent medical attention. Your physician will determine whether you need post-exposure prophylaxis, a series of rabies vaccines that reduces risk of contracting the disease if performed as soon as possible after exposure.
- Contact the local health department.
- Snohomish County (425.339.5278)
- King County (206-296-4600)
- Washington State (360-236-338, 06-418-5500)
- Bats can sometimes spread disease even when people do not recall having been bitten or scratched. If you have a bat in the home, it is assumed that you have been exposed. Contact Animal Control and follow up with your physician and local health department. If possible, save the animal so that it can be submitted for rabies testing.
If Your Pet is Bitten or Scratched by an Unknown or Wild Animal
- Call us immediately to schedule a visit. (425-672-4343).
*Did you know: It is estimated that 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year. Most of these cases occur in Africa andAsiaas a result of rabid dog bites. This trend is primarily the result of a high population of unvaccinated stray dogs that have not been spayed or neutered, but it is also a consequence of limited access to medical and veterinary care. Because rabies is not required to be reported to authorities in some locations, it is likely that we are underestimating the global burden from this disease.