In 1885, the French scientist Louis Pasteur administered the first effective rabies vacation to a human. Today, we recognize rabies as a terrifying—and preventable—disease, but it still remains a major concern for many countries. In an effort to raise awareness of the impact and prevention of rabies, September 28 has been named World Rabies Day.

This seems like a good time to share some key facts about this virus.

1. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means the virus can be transmitted from animals to people. In addition to humans and wild animals, cats, dogs, horses, sheep, ferrets, and cattle are commonly susceptible. Any mammal can be infected with rabies.

2. Nearly all human deaths from this virus originate from infected dogs. According to the CDC, around 59,000 people around the world die from rabies annually. The World Health Organization reports that the majority of cases (95%) are reported in Africa and Asia.

3. Thanks to our pet vaccination laws, very few people die from the virus in the United States each year. In North Carolina, owners of dogs, cats, and ferrets must begin vaccinating their animals for rabies at age four months.

4. Rabies is more likely to be found in wild animals, including bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes, in the U.S. While deaths in humans are rare in this country, the leading cause of those fatalities is contact with rabid bats.

5. The rabies virus impacts the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. In humans, it can cause neurological problems, vomiting, swallowing issues, hyperactivity, noise and light intolerance, coma, and ultimately death.

6. Infected animals may exhibit neurological issues, aggressive behavior, abnormal vocalizations, lethargy, paralysis, foaming at the mouth, and excessive salivation.

7. If you are scratched or bitten by an animal, it’s vital that you sanitize the wound with soap and water and get immediate medical care. Your doctor will likely administer post-exposure prophylaxis—PEP—in order to prevent the development of rabies. Once symptoms set in, it’s usually too late for effective treatment.

If you’ve fallen behind in getting your pets vaccinated, let this post serve as a reminder to schedule that appointment!

Disclaimer: The contents of the Lazy Days Pet Sitting Service website and blog are for informational purposes only. None of the material is intended to serve as professional veterinary advice. The provided information cannot be used to diagnose or treat pet health issues.