Today Maine CDC recognizes the third annual World Rabies Day. US CDC and the Alliance for Rabies Control, a UK charity, established this day in 2007 to raise awareness about rabies, which kills more than 50,000 people worldwide each year.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus. Rabies is 100% preventable by avoiding wild animals and any animal that you do not know, or by getting rabies shots if an exposure already occurred. A rabies exposure happens when a person or animal comes into contact with the saliva or tissue from the nervous system (brain or spinal cord) of a rabid animal. This contact can be from a bite or scratch, or if the animal’s saliva gets into a cut in the skin or in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Rabies in people is very rare in the United States, with only one to two cases each year. The last human case of rabies in Maine was in 1937, but this does not mean that rabies is not a problem. Rabies in animals, especially wildlife, is common in most parts of the country, including Maine. The most commonly infected animals in Maine are raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. To date this year, 52 animals have tested positive for rabies.
If you think that you have been exposed to rabies, wash the wound right away with soap and water. Then, call your doctor and the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821 to evaluate the need for animal testing and rabies shots. In addition, if you or your pet is exposed to a suspected rabid animal, call your veterinarian and local Animal Control Officer. If you or your pet is exposed to a wild animal, call your local Game Warden.
Follow these steps to prevent rabies:
- Vaccinate your pet cats and dogs against rabies; it is the law.
- Avoid contact with wild animals or other animals that you do not know.
- Bat-proof your home. Wildlife biologists can provide tips on how to bat-proof your home without harming bats.
For more information about rabies, visit the Maine CDC website at www.mainepublichealth.gov/rabies.