What is Rabies?
Rabies is a serious deadly zoonotic disease present in most parts of the world. It is one of the most common diseases to vaccinate against in small animals as well as some livestock species. It is typically transmitted by a bite from an infected animal but can even be transmitted in saliva onto an open wound/scratch. Rabies affects the central nervous system of the infected animal and once outward signs of rabies are apparent the disease is almost always fatal. Only 8-10 people have survived rabies worldwide. In developing countries, where rabies vaccination is not as diligent as in the US, death is widespread; there are nearly 30,000 deaths from rabies yearly!
Winged-Carriers of the Disease
In the United States, bats are a frequent reservoir for the disease and if a bat is found in your home it should be sent for rabies testing. If the bat cannot be found for testing, then it is considered to be an exposure and any family members exposed should go for post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP may consist of 4 injections of human rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine.
If pets in the home come into contact with a bat or potentially rabid animal what happens with them depends on their rabies vaccine status. A pet who has been vaccinated, is up to date and has been exposed should have a booster immediately. A pet who has a rabies vaccine that is out of date should be re-vaccinated and quarantined. A pet who has never been vaccinated should be vaccinated and have a longer quarantine – however it is advised that the pet be euthanized if the exposure was to a known rabid animal (tested positive). Rabies laws can be confusing and it is best to talk to your local health department if you feel you or your pets may have been exposed. In our immediate area (Roxbury and surrounding townships) a fox, coyote and raccoon have all tested positive in the past year.
Rabies is most certainly a disease that should not be taken lightly. It is best to keep your pet up to date on their vaccination, even for indoor only cats.
Details can be found at: http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/topics/rabies/appxIII_animal_confine.pdf