Maine CDC Press Release

September 29, 2015

World Rabies Day - A Time to Emphasize Prevention

Today (September 28) is World Rabies Day, and the State of Maine reminds people to protect themselves and their pets from rabies infection.

AUGUSTA – Today (September 28) is World Rabies Day, and the State of Maine reminds people to protect themselves and their pets from rabies infection.

“Rabies is a serious disease that is carried by wild animals in Maine throughout the year. By avoiding direct contact with wild animals, we can dramatically reduce the risk of rabies to people,” said Dr. Siiri Bennett, State Epidemiologist.

The rabies virus is spread when an infected animal bites 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.

Rabies is a worldwide problem. It’s estimated that 50,000 people die annually from the disease. Here in Maine, there have been 23 cases in animals so far in 2015, and the five-year average number of rabies cases in animals annually is 53. Maine’s last case of rabies in a human was in 1937 and was fatal.

All mammals are susceptible to rabies, but raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are more likely to be infected. “Pets can interact with wild animals, get rabies and spread the disease to their owners. The best way to protect your four-legged family member is with rabies vaccination. Maine law requires rabies vaccination for all dogs and cats – even indoor cats,” said Dr. Michele Walsh, State Veterinarian.

Prompt medical care may prevent rabies in a person after being exposed to the disease. If you or someone you know is bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound right away with soap and water. Contact your healthcare provider to find out if you need to be treated for a rabies exposure. Medical care can generally be delayed if the biting animal is not wild and can be contained for 10 days. Wild animals must be tested for rabies.

This is the ninth annual celebration of World Rabies Day. As part of raising awareness this month, health professionals who treat both humans and animals have been working together to educate people about rabies prevention and participated in activities across the state. A particular focus for education was Washington County where there’s been a recent increase in animals with rabies.

Representatives from Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also visited Gray Wildlife Park on Saturday during Northwood’s Law Day to provide education to children and families. An interactive game about animals that can and cannot get rabies as well as arts and crafts using rabies prevention were a part of the festivities.

For more information on rabies treatment, contact your local animal control officer or the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.For more information on World Rabies Day, go to http://www.mainepublichealth.gov/rabies .