Why I'm a Rabid Fan of Rabies Vaccination
written by Scotti of ScottiCohn
I first learned there was such a thing as rabies when I was around seven or eight years old, while watching the 1957 Disney movie "Old Yeller."
In both the book by Fred Gipson and the movie, a young boy's dog, Old Yeller, becomes exposed to hydrophobia while defending the family from a rabid wolf. The dog becomes sick and aggressive. There is only one solution: The dog must be killed. Fighting back tears, the boy shoots Old Yeller himself. Did I cry during those last couple of scenes? What do you think? It was enough to make me go into "high alert" at the mere mention of rabies from that point forward.
Although I was unfamliar with rabies before I saw "Old Yeller," the disease has been known for thousands of years. The word "rabies" comes from the Latin "rabere," meaning "to rage or rave." Animals with the disease often appear angry.
In the United States, rabies-related human deaths have declined dramatically since the turn of the century. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this is due to animal control and vaccination programs and the development of effective human rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins.
Sadly, worldwide, more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about 40% of these victims are children under age 15. Dogs are the source of 99% of human rabies deaths worldwide.
What can you do to help improve rabies detection, prevention, and control?
The CDC offers this list:
- Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
- Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
- Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
In the U.S., wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and coyotes are more likely to be rabid than domestic animals. However, the problem occurs when pets or other domestic animals are infected by a bite from a rabid wild animal. That's when the risk to humans increases. Most humans are given rabies vaccine as a result of exposure to domestic animals.
Each state collects specific information about rabies, and is the best source for information on rabies in your area.
September 28 is World Rabies Day. Co-sponsored by CDC and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) since 2007, its purpose is to raise awareness about rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts.
As a pet owner and animal lover, I always make sure my pets have up-to-date rabies vaccinations. In the past, I threw away the expired rabies tags when I got new ones for them. Recently, however, I was about to drop a couple of tags into the trash when I suddenly realized that they actually resemble some of the pendants used in jewelry. As a result, the Rabies Tag Necklaces were born!
You can wear them to remind people of the importance of vaccinating pets against rabies. Or, as I wrote in my humorous descriptions of the necklaces: "Now you can reassure potential partners that even though you're a vampire, werewolf, or whatever, it's still safe to hang out with you. Proclaim to the world that your bark really is worse than your bite."
Sources and Further Reading
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/
Rabies and Kids: http://www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids/
Global Alliance for Rabies Control: http://www.rabiescontrol.net/
World Rabies Day website: http://www.worldrabiesday.org/
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/scotticohn