North Central Health District

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World Rabies Day: Vaccinate to Eliminate

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Sept. 28 is recognized as World Rabies Day, a global campaign to help prevent the spread of the world’s most fatal disease.

The aim of this year’s World Rabies Day’s theme, Rabies: Vaccinate to Eliminate., is to highlight the essential role of mass pet vaccination in rabies elimination. It also indicates the need for human vaccination to save lives in case of potential exposure to rabies.

World Rabies Day, held on Sept. 28 every year, was initiated by Global Alliance for Rabies Control in 2007 to create a global opportunity for people to unite in increasing awareness of rabies prevention. Since then, it has grown year on year, with thousands of people organizing and participating in local, regional and national events, on or around Sept. 28.

Rabies is a viral disease that can be carried by mammals and transmitted through an infected animal’s saliva through a bite or scratch. In rare cases, the virus can spread from infectious material coming in contact with a mucus membrane like eyes or nose, or an open wound. Once it enters the body, rabies attacks the brain causing encephalopathy and death.

Symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache and tiredness. As the illness progresses, the exposed person may experience anxiety, insomnia, confusion, excitement, hallucinations, agitation, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the appearance of advanced symptoms.

Left untreated, rabies is always fatal, but it is also 100% preventable. Eliminating the disease by vaccinating pets protects them and stops transmission to people. But despite the existence of effective, relatively low-cost solutions to control animal rabies, people and animals are still dying.

In addition to vaccinating pets, you can prevent rabies transmission by avoiding unfamiliar animals, whether they are domestic or wild. If you encounter a strange animal that is acting out of the ordinary, do not try to approach the animal yourself. Contact your local animal control or law enforcement and provide details about the animal. If you are bitten or scratched by any animal that could be unvaccinated against rabies, contact your healthcare provider and your county environmental health office immediately. If the contact with the animal occurs outside of normal business hours, report to the Georgia Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Learn more about rabies and rabies prevention at NCHD52.org/Rabies and at rabiesalliance.org.

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