On September 28, Maine CDC will celebrate the fifth annual World Rabies Day. Established in 2007 by U.S. CDC and the Alliance for Rabies Control, a U.K. charity, this day is dedicated to raise awareness about rabies. Worldwide, more than 50,000 people die from rabies 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 in 2011, 51 animals 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 suspect 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 but preventing them from entering your home.
For more information about rabies, visit the Maine CDC website at www.mainepublichealth.gov/rabies.