Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Friday is World Rabies Day

On September 28, the State of Maine will celebrate the sixth annual World Rabies Day. Although Maine has not had a case of human rabies since 1937 due to reporting and effective control measures, the threat of rabies remains.

Last month, Maine CDC was notified of a domestic dog that tested positive for rabies. This is the first case of rabies in a domestic dog in Maine since 2003. This case reminds us of the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on rabies vaccine and avoiding contact with wild animals to prevent the spread of rabies. The dog was infected with a variant of the rabies virus that circulates most commonly in raccoons and is predominant in the eastern United States.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals. The virus is spread when infected animals bite or scratch a person or another animal. The virus can also be spread if saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord of a rabid animal touches broken skin or gets into the mouth, nose or eyes of a person or another animal.

All mammals are susceptible to rabies infection, but only a few wildlife species are important reservoirs for the disease, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. While wildlife are more likely to be rabid than are domestic animals in the United States, domestic animals can be infected when they are bitten by wild animals.
Rabies in humans is preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. If you or someone you know is bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water right away, and contact your healthcare provider to find out if you need to be treated for a rabies exposure. Usually, medical care can be delayed if rabies can be ruled out in the biting animal either through a confinement period for domestic animals or rabies testing for wild animals.

All Mainers are encouraged to consider ways in which they can prevent the spread of rabies including:
  • 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, contact your local animal control officer or Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821. Stop by at our World Rabies Day Table in the lobby of KeyBank Plaza on Water Street in Augusta from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, September 27.

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