So, turns out 2011 marks 250 years of veterinary medicine. This past Saturday, April 30, was World Veterinary Day. The theme this year was: RABIES. Scary stuff. So I thought I’d dedicate a post to Rabies!
For many people in Canada, rabies is a disease you have to vaccinate your dog and cat against because it’s the law. Or because it’s strongly encouraged. Or because you intend to take Fluffy or Fido across the border to the US. Not a lot of people seem to think of rabies as a disease you’re actually going to find here in Canada. Those people are wrong.
In 2010 there were 123 cases of rabies confirmed in animals in Canada. None in Newfoundland (yay!), but Newfoundland is not rabies free – there have been positive cases here in the past. The last confirmed case on the island of Newfoundland was in 2003. In Canada, it is required by federal law to report all suspicious cases to federal officials (CFIA or RCMP).
The most common animals to spread rabies in Canada are bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons. Rabies is definitely a human health risk – some facts from the World Veterinary Association: Rabies is the most fatal infectious disease in the world. One person dies from rabies every 10 minutes. Most victims of rabies are children. 99% of human cases are caused by bites from infected dogs. Animal vaccination remains the method of choice to control and eradicate rabies.
Canada is definitely not a high risk area for rabies, but it’s here, and you don’t want to mess around with it. In 2007, a man in Alberta died from rabies. Before that, a man in Bristish Columbia died in 2003. These were both from rabid bat exposure. A young boy died in Quebec in 2000, from bat rabies. Previous to that, there hadn’t been a rabies related death in Canada since 1985.
So if a rabies vaccination is not required in your area, and you live in a country where rabies occurs (which is worldwide with few exceptions), you may want to go ahead and talk to your veterinarian about it. People can get vaccinated for it as well – good idea if you work with animals (yes, I’m vaccinated), plan on travelling to a country that’s considered high risk (anywhere with lots of stray dogs and rabies – a deadly combo. Think: India, Thailand. . . ), or if you’re a spelunker! (caves full of bats = rabies waiting to happen.)
“Do I really have to vaccinate my dog against rabies?” is a question I’m often asked in the exam room. While it’s not a required vaccine in Newfoundland, I definitely encourage it.
If you want to know more, here’s some links!