World Rabies Day 2022: Human-Animal Bond With Caution

World Rabies Day aims to increase awareness about rabies prevention, its effect on human and animal rabies, how we can prevent it quickly, and how to eliminate its sources worldwide.

Rabies is fatal but preventable. It is a vaccine-preventable viral disease prevalent in many countries and dogs are the primary source of human rabies deaths. A rabid animal bite or scratch can cause RABV virus infection, resulting in nerve damage that can be fatal if left untreated! The disease is preventable if the rabies vaccine is given quickly after exposure.

Rabies: A disease we need to eradicate!

This year, on World Rabies Day 2022, the theme is "Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths," and it focuses on achieving the "Zero by 30" goal and also the fact that dog-mediated human rabies elimination is possible.

This year marks the 16th World Rabies Day, emphasizing the connection between the environment, humans, and animals. The event seeks to educate people on how rabies may be eradicated in humans and domestic animals if the proper precautions are taken, for example, taking a rabies vaccine. Dogs are the most prevalent animal afflicted by rabies worldwide, accounting for more than 99 percent of human cases.

World Rabies Day has been marked every year on September 28 since 2007. This day also marks the death anniversary of Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist, and he was the one who introduced the first rabies vaccine.

Understanding Rabies! What is rabies and what causes it?

Rabies is a severe viral infection caused by the RABV virus belonging to the Rhabdovirus family. It is transmitted through an infected animal's saliva when it bites or scratches another individual or animal. Because this disease affects the brain and nervous system of the infected person, it must be prevented quickly. Rabies symptoms are non-specific in the early stages but eventually affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems.

The animals most likely to infect people with the rabies virus include:

Pets and farm animals:

  • Dogs
  • Ferrets
  • Cats
  • Cows
  • Goats
  • Horses

Wild animals:

  • Bats
  • Beavers
  • Coyotes
  • Foxes
  • Monkeys
  • Raccoons
  • Bats
  • Beavers
  • Coyotes
  • Skunks
  • Woodchucks

Now, the question is who should get the rabies vaccine and when?

The rabies vaccine is developed from the killed rabies virus that cannot cause the disease. Humans receive the rabies vaccine in two ways. The first is a preventive vaccine (no exposure), and the second is a vaccination after exposure.

Preventive Vaccination (No Exposure)

  • Animal handlers, veterinarians, rabies laboratory workers, rabies biologics production employees, and spelunkers are frequently at high risk of rabies exposure. As a result, they must be immunized against the disease.
  • International travelers, who are more likely to come in contact with animals from different parts of the world where rabies is common, should also be vaccinated.
  • The rabies pre-exposure vaccination consists of three doses administered in the following order:
    • Dose 1: As appropriate
    • Dose 2: 7 days after Dose 1
    • Dose 3: 21 days or 28 days after Dose 1
  • Booster doses and periodic testing for immunity are highly recommended for laboratory workers and others regularly exposed to the rabies virus, and booster doses must be administered as needed.

Vaccination After Exposure

  • If bitten by an animal or have been exposed to the rabies virus, you should clean the wound and consult the doctor right away. The doctor will determine whether or not you need a rabies vaccination.
  • An unvaccinated person exposed to the disease receives four doses of the rabies vaccine. One dose immediately, followed by three more on the third, seventh, and fourteenth days.
  • A vaccinated person exposed to the virus receives two doses of the rabies vaccine. One immediately and the other on the third day.

Hence, people at a higher risk of contracting rabies must be given the rabies vaccine to protect them from the illness. It is also critical to vaccinate your pets against rabies and seek medical attention quickly if an animal bites you.

World Rabies Day is a reminder that rabies is a dreadful disease and prevention, along with awareness, can go a long way to control it completely. Spread rabies awareness, put an end to rabies, and save a life!

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