This day is designed to raise awareness about both human and animal Rabies. The theme for 2014 is ‘Together against Rabies’. The day is also about teaching everyone about the impact of Rabies, how to prevent it and how to eradicate sources of the disease across the world.
Since it started World Rabies Day has educated over 100 million people and over 3 million animals have been vaccinated against the disease.
This disease can be spread to humans from animals usually by biting or scratching. Bats are the most common animal to transmit the disease and those at risk of contracting Rabies can have a preventative vaccine, although only a few people have survived a Rabies infection.
The period between infection and the first flu-like symptoms of Rabies is usually 2-12 weeks in humans. Symptoms may soon develop into paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, confusion and hallucinations which eventually develop into delirium. Hydrophobia usually develops and survival is usually rare.
Any warm-blooded animal, including humans, may become infected with Rabies and develop symptoms, although birds have only been known to be infected in experiments. The most common animals that can become infected are bats, foxes, monkeys, dogs and cats.
Rabies can be difficult to diagnose because in the early stages it can be confused with other diseases.
Foxes in Switzerland were vaccinated by the authorities who put the Rabies vaccine in chicken heads and left them out in the wild for the foxes to eat and thereby vaccinating them. India has the highest rate of human Rabies in the world, primarily because of stray dogs whose number has greatly increased after a 2001 law forbade the killing of dogs. Effective control and treatment of Rabies in India is also hindered by a form of mass hysteria or group delusion known as puppy pregnancy syndrome (PPS). Dog bite victims with PPS become convinced that puppies are growing inside them and often seek help from faith healers rather than from conventional medical services.
One person dies every ten minutes from Rabies every year, yet human Rabies is completely preventable if adequate Rabies treatment is given. The majority of Rabies-related deaths are in Africa and Asia. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are most likely to be bitten by dogs with uncontrolled rabies. This major source of Rabies can be avoided through pet vaccination, education of children and ensuring proper access to medical resources.
In 2006, China introduced the ‘one-dog per family policy’ to control the problem of Rabies and stray dogs.
The first Rabies vaccine was harvested from infected rabbits and the first human Rabies vaccine was developed in 1967. There are now certain essential points that must be adhered to:
Vaccinate dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets annually against Rabies
Keep pets under supervision
Do not handle wild or stray animals
Contact an animal control officer if you see a wild animal or a stray acting strangely
If bitten by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes and contact a healthcare provider
How do you know if you might have rabies?
Numbness will develop at the spot you were bitten and a high temperature and hallucinations will follow. It can literally drive you mad.
In 2006 when researchers and professionals formed the Alliance for Rabies Control, the goal was to generate awareness and resources to contribute to Rabies prevention and control. The first World Rabies Day in 2007 exceeded all expectations with 400,000 people taking part across 74 countries. That has now spread across 125 countries.
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