A human death from rabies is a tragic but rare thing in the United States and most developed nations. It’s just as tragic but sadly common in parts of the world where some 3 billion people are at risk of being bitten by a rabid dog. More than 59,000 people die of rabies each year because they cannot get the care they need. That’s about 1 person dying of rabies every 9 minutes.
Most of these deaths are in Africa and Asia, and nearly half of the victims are children under the age of 15. Many of these lives can be saved if bite victims and healthcare providers know what to do and have what they need —rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin.
“Measures to prevent rabies in people are simple: wash the wound right after you are bitten and get follow-up care and vaccination immediately,” said Ryan Wallace, veterinary epidemiologist with CDC. “However, the primary method of prevention, and the more cost-effective intervention in the fight against rabies, is vaccination of domestic pets, particularly dogs.”
Today is World Rabies Day, an opportunity for people around the world to learn more about the impact that rabies has on people and animals and what each of us can do to put the world on the path toward eliminating rabies. This year’s theme is End Rabies Together, which challenges individuals and organizations to pull together to end the needless suffering and deaths caused by this preventable disease.
The fact that so few people in the United States and other developed nations get rabies shows that the disease can be controlled. Canine rabies has been eliminated in the United States, thanks to routine dog vaccinations and licensing and better control of stray dogs. Since the control of canine rabies in the United States, it has now been recognized that numerous wild animals can be infected with this disease. For that reason, people still must remain aware of the risk of rabies and seek medical care when exposed to wildlife and unusually acting animals.