NH DHHS - Recognizes World Rabies Day

Concord, NH – The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is recognizing World Rabies Day on September 28, 2010. The mission of this event is to raise awareness about rabies and how to prevent it. It is estimated that every year 30,000-40,000 US residents are potentially exposed to rabies requiring human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Each year more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by animals, with a resulting public health cost of over $300 million. Fifty percent of those bitten are under the age of 15. Worldwide 55,000 people die every year due to rabies.

Rabies is the most deadly human disease, yet it is 100% preventable. It is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through certain exposures to saliva or nervous system tissue from a rabid animal and is virtually always fatal without proper postexposure treatment. So far this year 15 animals have tested positive for rabies in New Hampshire. In the U.S., typically there are 1 to 3 human cases of rabies reported per year.

In New Hampshire so far this year, at least 155 residents sought care at a hospital emergency department for potential exposure to rabies. “Rabies is a very serious disease but it is preventable and we want to give people some simple prevention tips,” said Dr. José Montero, DHHS Public Health Director. “The most important thing for people to remember is to avoid contact with wild animals, even baby animals, especially if they seem tame and unafraid, because they may be ill. If you encounter a wild animal that seems ill, contact your local animal control or town health officer and do not go near it. It is also important that people vaccinate their dogs, cats, and ferrets, and any other animal that has regular contact with humans, such as horses.”

Some other steps to take to reduce the spread of rabies and exposure to wild animals are:
Don’t let your pets roam free to help prevent them from coming into contact with wild animals
Teach children to avoid wildlife and all animals they do not know well
Don’t feed or water your pets outside to avoid attracting wild animals
Keep your garbage cans securely covered
Bat-proof your home in the fall and winter
Do not keep wild animals as pets
If your pet has been bitten or scratched by an animal, put on gloves before touching your pet

If you are bitten by an animal:
Wash the wound immediately with soap and water for at least 5 minutes
Contact your physician immediately
Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten and before the disease develops can stop rabies infection and prevent the disease

For more information on rabies, visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/rabies/