Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), today observed World Rabies Day by urging Californians to protect their family and pets from rabies by taking simple precautions such as avoiding contact with wild animals that may be infected with the deadly virus.
“Californians can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with rabies by taking simple precautions such as avoiding contact with wild animals and ensuring their pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations,” Horton said. “Through awareness and education, people can protect their family and pets from this fatal disease.”
Bats and skunks are the most common animals found to be rabid in California. Rabies is rare in dogs, cats, and other domestic animals in California due to vaccination programs and animal control efforts.
To date this year, 100 rabid animals have been reported in California: 80 bats, 17 skunks, one coyote, one fox and one raccoon. The last human case of rabies in California was reported in November 2006 in a San Joaquin County child who contracted the disease after exposure in the Philippines.
“I urge all Californians to take steps to protect themselves and their pets from rabies especially during the fall season, which tends to be an active time of year for bats and other animals that may carry the virus,” Horton said.
The first symptoms of rabies, which may start one to three months or possibly longer following an exposure, may be nonspecific--malaise, fever, or headache--similar to the flu. There may be discomfort at the location of the bite, progressing within days to symptoms of brain dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation, progressing to delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal. However, there is a rabies vaccine regimen that provides immunity to rabies when administered after an exposure before symptoms occur, or for protection before an exposure.
The most effective ways for individuals to prevent exposure to rabies are:
• Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals, such as bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes
• Bat-proof your home in the fall and winter
• Vaccinate your pets against rabies
• If you are bitten or if saliva from a suspected rabid animal comes in contact with your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, wash the exposure site and seek medical attention immediately.
The first Annual World Rabies Day is September 8, 2007. World Rabies Day events will raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies and steps that can be taken to prevent infection.
For additional information on preventing rabies, please visit: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Pages/rabies.aspx.