According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 5,000 cases of animal rabies reported annually in the United States (US); however, more than 90% of those cases are in wildlife.
In Ohio the number bats and raccoons that tested positive for rabies has been between 40 and 50 in recent years. Prior to 1960, the occurrence of rabies in dogs happened quite frequently, but since then it has practically disappeared in the US. This is likely due to the state’s adoption of rabies vaccination requirements for dogs and rabies awareness programs distributed by veterinarians, public health organizations and the agricultural community. In other countries, the efforts to eliminate rabies in dogs have NOT been so successful. The CDC reports that around the world, rabies kills more than 59,000 people every year with Africa and Asia being the most effected. In these regions almost half of the human rabies cases have been children under the age of 15 and cause by rabid dogs.
In 2007 several health organizations created the World Rabies Day to raise awareness about rabies and bring together partners to enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide. On September 28 World Rabies Day was observed in many countries, including the United States. The theme of this year’s World Rabies Day was “Rabies: Vaccinate to Eliminate” with efforts focused on ensuring dogs get vaccinated, getting the necessary medication to people exposed to rabid animals and eliminating all human rabies cases worldwide by 2030.
Each year the Meigs County Health Department and our local veterinarians work to raise rabies awareness through vaccination clinics. The clinics are held in June of each year. Over 80 dogs and cats received the rabies vaccination at this year’s clinic. The health department also investigates an average of 50 to 60 reports of animal bites that could be a potential rabies exposure. Almost all incidents resulted in the issuance of the mandatory 10-day quarantine period of the animal for observation and no rabies vaccinations for the person exposed. In Ohio, the rabies virus is seen primarily in raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. A bite from a rabid raccoon or skunk is more likely to happen to your pets and livestock which is why keeping vaccinations up to date is very important. Any human exposure to bats should be regarded as a potential exposure to rabies. Any bat found inside your home should be collected and sent for rabies testing by the health department.
As observance of World Rabies Day, take steps to protect your family and your pets by ensuring that every pet has received or is up-to-date on the rabies vaccination
Steve Swatzel is Sanitarian and Environmental Health Director for the Meigs County Health Department.