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DHMH Press Releases : Maryland Recognizes “World Rabies Day”

Maryland Recognizes “World Rabies Day”
Protect Yourself, Protect Your Pets with Rabies Vaccination

BALTIMORE (September 26, 2013) - The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) on September 28, 2013, will join partners in Maryland and around the world to recognize the seventh annual World Rabies Day, a worldwide event to raise awareness about the impact of rabies in humans and animals.

“Maryland residents should protect themselves and their pets by having their pets vaccinated against rabies,” said Katherine Feldman, State Public Health Veterinarian.

Rabies in humans is 100 percent preventable through prompt appropriate medical care, yet more than 55,000 people die of the disease each year, mostly in areas of the world that still have the "dog-to-dog" type of rabies transmission. Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. When a person is bitten by a rabid animal, the disease is prevented with a four-dose rabies vaccine series administered over a period of 14 days and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of the series.

One of the most effective ways to prevent rabies is to vaccinate pets. All Maryland local health departments offer low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics. In honor of World Rabies Day, Anne Arundel, Cecil, Harford and Worcester counties are offering low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics on or around September 28, 2013.

Remember these steps to protect yourself and your pets from rabies:
• Vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferrets, and other animals against rabies.
• Enjoy wildlife from a distance.
• Do not let pets roam free.
• Cover garbage cans securely and do not leave pet food outside.
• Prevent bats from entering your home. If you do find a bat, do not touch it.
• Only let it go if you are absolutely sure no people or household pets have had any contact with it. If it is alive, you can catch it by placing a small box, bowl, or can over the bat once it has landed to roost, and then slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container and contact your local health department.
• If you or your pet has been exposed to a rabid or suspected rabid domestic animal, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number.
• Contact your local health department or animal control agency in the event of an exposure.

In spring 2013, a human rabies case associated with organ transplantation was reported in Maryland, marking the first human case of rabies in the state since 1976. Each year, approximately 400 animals are confirmed rabid in the State, and over 1,000 Maryland residents receive rabies vaccination after being exposed to a rabid animal. To date in 2013, 297 animals have been confirmed rabid in Maryland. While wildlife species (most commonly raccoons, bats and foxes) account for the majority of confirmed rabid animals, cats are the most common rabid domestic animal reported in Maryland.

As generally occurs throughout the summer and early fall, Maryland residents are reporting an increased number of bat encounters, and the summer months are when DHMH confirms the greatest number of rabid bats. To date this year, 45 bats have tested positive for rabies, accounting for 15 percent of the 297 animals confirmed rabid statewide. Only a very small number of bats actually carry rabies; however, bats are the most common source of human rabies in the United States. A new poster entitled Never Touch A Bat—Bats Can Have Rabies is one of several resources available on the DHMH Rabies web site at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/rabies.aspx.

To learn more about rabies in Maryland, including rabies surveillance statistics and efforts to prevent and control the disease, visit http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/Home.aspx . For information on low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics in your county, contact your local health department or visit their website. To learn more about World Rabies Day, visit http://rabiesalliance.org/world-rabies-day.

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