How You Can Help Control Rabies

How You Can Help Control Rabies

World Rabies Day - September 28

Although rabies is a 100% preventable disease, almost 60,000 people die from it around the world each year.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease. Rabies spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal. In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Over 99% of all human deaths caused by rabid dog bites happen in the developing world, with 95% of deaths occurring in Africa and Asia. With the exception of Antarctica, people and animals on every continent are at risk of contracting rabies.

Louis Pasteur - Founder of the Rabies Vaccine

Louis Pasteur died on September 28, 1895, shortly after celebrating his 70th birthday. He was a French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine. Rabies was a dreaded and horrible disease that had fascinated popular imagination for centuries because of its mysterious origin and the fear it generated. Conquering it would be Pasteur’s final endeavor.

During Pasteur’s investigation into the rabies disease, he discovered that the virus was too small to be seen by his microscope so he experimented with the disease demanded the development of entirely new methodologies.

Pasteur chose to conduct his experiments using rabbits and transmitted the infectious agent from animal to animal by intracerebral inoculations until he obtained a stable preparation. In order to attenuate the invisible agent, he desiccated the spinal cords of infected animals until the preparation became almost nonvirulent. He realized later that, instead of creating an attenuated form of the agent, his treatment had actually neutralized it.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death. Rabies can be prevented by vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, and seeking medical care after potential exposures before symptoms start.

On July 6, 1885, Pasteur vaccinated Joseph Meister, a nine-year-old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog and saved his life. Hundreds of other bite victims throughout the world were subsequently saved by Pasteur’s vaccine, and the era of preventive medicine had begun.

How can YOU help prevent rabies?

How can YOU help prevent rabies? Vaccinate your animals and keep them away from wildlife that can spread the disease. Rabies is 100% preventable.

Today, safe and efficacious animal and human vaccines are among the important tools that exist to eliminate human deaths from rabies while awareness is the key driver for the success of communities to engage in effective rabies prevention.