Saturday, September 28th is World Rabies Day. It's intended to raise awareness about this disease. "We want to remind people that rabies is still a disease that is out there, and that prevention is really the key," says Darlene Armacost, Program Manager for Communicable Disease and Prevention with the Frederick County Health Department. "We have outstanding ways to prevent both animals from contracting rabies, and humans from contracting rabies."
The Health Department says an average of about 400 animals in Maryland are confirmed rabid each year, and approximately 1,000 Maryland residents receive post-exposure prophylaxis annually. That's where the person who has come into contact with rabies undergoes a series of vaccinations. But, Armacost says, they're not administered at the stomach as in the past.
Even though there are few cases of human rabies in the United States, she says we must not forget that rabies affect people, and the results can be fatal. "Oftentimes, we think about people developing a fear of water. Light may bother them. They may have problems moving their extremities. They can develop an encephalitis. And, of course, they can slip into a coma at that time," Armacost says.
Earlier this year, one person in Maryland contracted the disease after having been infected through an organ transplantation. It was the first rabies case in the state since 1976.
In order to prevent rabies in dogs, cats and ferrets, it's important to keep your animals' shots up to date. "If you cannot afford to take your animal to a private veterinarian, the Health Department does have animal vaccination clinics throughout the year. Generally, we have at least four of them, and the next one won't be until spring," says Armacost, who also says Frederick County Animal Control also holds rabies vaccination clinics.
The Health Department says it's important to avoid wild animals you may see in the woods or in your neighborhoods. "Adults need to educate children that wild animals are something we look at from afar, but we don't approach them," Armacost says. "And if a wild animal is kind of docile, and seeming friendly, you ought to know that's not normal. Wild animals want to avoid humans."
In addition: "Kittens also can carry rabies. And we do see that periodically where people see a stray or a feral kitten, and they want to help that cat. And, unfortunately, the cat ends up having rabies and people end up being exposed," says Armacost.