Global rabies prevention initiative starts locally
Rockport — In Rockport, a global grassroots campaign is taking shape. This year, PenBay Veterinary Associates is teaming up with international rabies experts to celebrate World Rabies Day Sept. 28.
In honor of World Rabies Day, PenBay Veterinary Associates is offering rabies vaccines free of charge Sept. 24 to Oct. 5. Pet owners will still need to pay for the required wellness exam performed by a veterinarian; however, there will be no charge for the vaccine itself.
“Rabies prevention starts with the pet owner. We saw this as an opportunity to highlight the rabies prevention and control efforts in our community, while teaming up with people around the world towards a common goal,” said Dr. Bjorn Lee, veterinarian and owner of PenBay Veterinary Associates, in a news release.
Founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alliance for Rabies Control, a UK charity, the World Rabies Day initiative aims to bring together relevant partners in an effort to address rabies prevention and control.
In the United States, the greatest achievement in rabies control and prevention occurred half-a-century ago with effective implementation of dog vaccination, licensing and stray dog control. “We cannot let our guard down with rabies,” said Lee. “Rabies is ever-present in wildlife which can expose our pets and possibly our family members.”
It is estimated that every year 30,000-40,000 U.S. residents are potentially exposed to rabies requiring human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. An increasing number of wild animals are testing positive in Maine, increasing the risk of human expose in our area.
Last month, Maine Centers for Disease Control was notified of a domestic dog that tested positive for rabies. Dr. Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist from Maine CDC, said in a news release, “This was the first case of rabies in a domestic dog in Maine since 2003. This case reminds us of the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on rabies vaccine and avoiding contact with wild animals to prevent the spread of rabies.”
The dog was infected with a variant of the rabies virus that circulates most commonly in raccoons and is predominant in the eastern United States. Cats are more likely than dogs to be infected with rabies because of lower vaccination rates among cats; fewer confinement or leash laws; and nocturnal activity patterns that place them at increased risk of being exposed to rabid wildlife. Maine CDC receives reports of about two rabid cats each year.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals. The virus is spread when infected animals bite or scratch a person or another animal. The virus can also be spread if saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord of a rabid animal touches broken skin or gets into the mouth, nose or eyes of a person or another animal.
Pet owners can take some important steps to protect their pets from rabies.
· Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets
· Keep pets on one's own property and under direct supervision when outdoors
· Call animal control to remove stray animals from the neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill
· If a pet is bitten or scratched by another animal, call the veterinarian to find out if it needs medical attention
· Report all animal bites to the town in which the bite occurred
“Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner,” said Lee. “We recommend that people vaccinate dogs, cats, ferrets, and any other animal that has regular contact with humans, such as horses.”
To schedule a free vaccination, call PenBay Veterinary Associates at 594-8300.