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World Rabies Day
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World Rabies Day

Posters for distribution

Rabies - Girl          Rabies - Bat

Provided by the ALVMA Public Health Committee (2019)


World Rabies Day: Awareness is the best defense against rabies


World Rabies Day, an initiative of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), is September 28. This date was chosen to commemorate the death of Louis Pasteur who created the first rabies vaccine and laid the foundation of rabies prevention. The event was established to create a global opportunity for people to focus on rabies prevention. Rabies is preventable, but the disease still causes enormous loss of life in the world’s poorest regions, particularly rural Asia and Africa.  Rabies is rare in the United States, but approximately 59,000 people die yearly from the disease in other parts of the world (one death every 9 minutes).  The countries with the highest number of human cases are Africa and Asia and almost half of the deaths are children under the age of 15. The elimination of human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies is a goal of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

We are fortunate in Alabama that recognized rabies in domestic animals is relatively rare. From 2015 through 2018 the following laboratory confirmed animal rabies cases were reported in Alabama: 162 raccoons, 47 bats, 42 foxes, 2 skunks, 2 bobcats, 1 opossum, 6 dogs and 4 cats. There were no cases reported in domestic livestock during this time period. Total yearly cases ranged from a low of 51 in 2017 to a high of 83 in 2015. This cyclic pattern is typical of animal rabies cases detected in the state. So far in 2019 rabies has been reported in 18 raccoons, 7 bats, 5 foxes, 2 skunks and 1 dog. While this is encouraging, we should not let our guard down and veterinarians need to “think rabies first” in neurologic cases and routinely use personal protective equipment (especially gloves) and practice good hygiene. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the private practice veterinarians who assist the Alabama Department of Health as rabies officers for their counties.  


The information below is from the GARC and the Public Health Committee of the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.


General rabies information

  • Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through exposure to the saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal and is nearly always fatal without proper post-exposure treatment. Rabies is zoonotic, which means it can spread from animals to people.
  • Rabies is 100% preventable. In most cases, preventing rabies is as simple as ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, avoiding contact with wild animals, and educating those at risk. 
  • Forty percent of the people bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age.


 Rabies Statistics

  • In 2017, there were 3,359 cases of animal rabies reported in the U.S.  These animals, mostly wildlife, can expose humans or pets to rabies.
  •  In the U.S., typically 1-3 cases of human rabies are reported per year. CDC confirmed one case in 2017. Most human rabies in the U. S. are from contact with rabid bats.
  • The cost of rabies in the United States is estimated to be $8.6 billion a year. This involves vaccination of companion animals, animal control programs, maintaining rabies laboratories and medical costs for post exposure rabies prophylaxis.
  • In the U.S., raccoons are the most common animals found to be rabid, followed by skunks and bats. However, the type of terrestrial mammals that carry rabies varies across geographic areas of the U.S.:
  •  In Alabama, raccoons and bats most frequently are found to be rabid.  In 2017 there were 51 cases of rabies diagnosed in animals in Alabama (59% were raccoons and 20% were bats).


Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner

  • All dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies.  Consider vaccinating valuable livestock and horses. Animals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
  • Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free.
  • Spaying or neutering your pet may reduce any tendency they might have to roam or fight and thus reduce the chance that they will be exposed to rabies.
  • Only about 50-60% of the dogs and 20-25% of the cats in Alabama are vaccinated for rabies.
  • There were approximately 7,000 dog and cat bites in Alabama last year.  A significant percentage of these bites result in post exposure rabies prophylaxis for the person who is bitten at a cost of over $3,000 for each exposure.


Reduce the risk of exposure to rabies from wildlife

  • Don’t feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
  • Wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • Enjoy all wild animals from a distance and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control officials.
  • Bat-proof your home in the fall and winter.


What to do when your pet bites someone

  • Contact your local health department or local animal control.
  • A dog, cat or ferret that bites a human needs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian immediately
  • The local public health official may require monitoring the pet at home or at a veterinary clinic for 10 days.
  • Report any illness or unusual behavior by your pet to the local health department and to your veterinarian immediately.

 What to do when your pet gets bitten by another animal

  • Consult your veterinarian immediately and have your veterinarian examine your pet and assess your pets vaccination needs.
  • Contact local animal control if the bite was from a stray or wild animal.
  • Monitor your pet at home or in a veterinary clinic for a specified time period by state law or local ordinance (usually at least 45 days) if an unvaccinated or wild animal bit your pet.

What to do if you are bitten by an animal

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least 5 minutes.
  •  Contact your physician immediately.
  • Report the bite to the local health department. If necessary, you will be assessed for rabies post exposure prophylaxis.Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten and before the disease develops can stop rabies infection and prevent the disease.


Bats and Rabies

  • Bats have small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen.
  • Although many people know if they have been bitten by a bat, there are certain circumstances when a person might not be aware or unable to tell you that they have been bitten. These circumstances include:
  • If a sleeping person awakes to find a bat in the room
  • If you find a bat in a room with an unattended child
  • If you see a bat near a person with disabilities. 
  • If you see a bat near a person who is intoxicated. 
  • In these circumstances, safely capture the bat for rabies testing.  If the bat tests positive for rabies, or is unavailable for testing, the person should seek medical advice regarding the need for post exposure prophylaxis.
  • Contact your local or state health department for assistance with animal testing and medical advice.


Post exposure prophylaxis (treatment): 

  • Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated for persons possibly exposed to a rabid animal (or human).
  • Possible exposures include animal bites or mucous membrane contamination with infectious tissue or fluids such as saliva. Blood, feces and urine do not carry the virus and are not infectious. {For more information on types of exposures, see Human Rabies Prevention - United States, 1999 Recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP).}
  • PEP should begin as soon as possible after an exposure. Administration of rabies PEP is a medical urgency, not a medical emergency. There have been no vaccine failures in the United States (i.e., someone developed rabies) when PEP was given promptly and appropriately after an exposure. Physicians should evaluate each possible exposure to rabies and as necessary consult with local or state public health officials regarding the need for rabies PEP.


Post exposure prophylaxis (treatment) regimen:

  • In the United States, post exposure prophylaxis for non-immunocompromised previously unvaccinated persons consists of rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14- day period (
  • The immune globulin and the first dose of vaccine should be given as soon as possible after exposure.
  • Additional doses of rabies vaccine should be given on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination.
  • Persons who are immunocompromised require rabies immune globulin and vaccine as soon as possible plus four additional doses administered on days 3, 7, 14 and 28 (visit the following link for Rabies Medical Care information


Pre exposure vaccination series:

  • Pre exposure vaccination should be offered to persons in high-risk groups, such as veterinarians and animal handlers that work in rabies endemic areas, and certain laboratory workers.
  • Pre exposure vaccination also should be considered for other persons whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus or potentially rabid bats, raccoons, skunks, cats, dogs, or other species at risk for having rabies.
  • The pre exposure series consists of three doses of rabies vaccine administered on days 0, 7 and 21 or 28.


Useful Websites:
CDC Rabies Website:

WHO Rabies Website:

NASPHV Rabies Compendium:

World Rabies Day Website:

Alabama Department of Public Health Website:



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