“Maryland residents should protect themselves and their pets by having their pets vaccinated against rabies,” said Frances Phillips DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.
Rabies in humans is 100% 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.
Although there has not been a human case of rabies in Maryland since 1976, each year approximately 300 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 2012, 240 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 at this time of year, Maryland residents are reporting an increased number of bat encounters, and the summer months are also when DHMH confirms the greatest number of rabid bats. To date this year, 49 bats have tested positive for rabies, accounting for 20% of the 240 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 U.S.
“Rabies is a deadly disease that can be prevented with prompt medical attention following exposure. While most bats do not carry rabies, any contact with a bat should be reported to public health officials so that the rabies risk can be assessed,” says Katherine Feldman, DHMH State Public Health Veterinarian.
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, Baltimore, Cecil, Harford and Worcester counties are offering low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics on or around September 28, 2012.
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 find a bat in your home, 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.
To learn more about rabies in Maryland, including rabies surveillance statistics and efforts to prevent and control the disease, please visit the DHMH website http://ideha.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/Home.aspx. For information on low-cost animal rabies vaccination clinics in your county, please contact your local health department or visit their website. To learn more about World Rabies Day please visit: www.worldrabiesday.org.