Rabies Rare Now, But Still Cause For Some Concern

By Dr. Greg Perraultm, Gazettes.com

Sept. 28 is World Rabies Day, a global health observance that seeks to raise awareness about rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts. Since 2007, World Rabies Day has been celebrated in countries throughout the world.

Rabies may seem to be a disease of the past and not a significant concern. Despite being 100% preventable, one person dies from rabies every 10 minutes. Worldwide it is estimated that 55,000 people die from rabies each year. Children are particularly at risk, with almost half of all rabies deaths occurring in children younger than 15 years old. Rabies can be transmitted from animals that are not vaccinated against the disease.

While most rabies cases occur in developing countries, rabies exists locally. There were 22 rabid bats found in Los Angeles and Orange counties in 2009 and 19 cases were reported so far this year. Not many people recall that in the 1930s, Los Angeles County was the site of the largest rabies outbreak in the nation peaking in 1937 with more than 1,700 cases! Canine rabies was not fully controlled until 1956, when dog licensing required rabies vaccination.

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