"Typically in Illinois, 40 to 60 bats test positive for rabies each
year. But this year we are seeing an increased number of rabid bats,
totaling more than 80," said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois
Department of Public Health director. "World Rabies Day is a great
opportunity to raise awareness of rabies and rabies prevention by
The World Rabies Day initiative is a global rabies awareness
campaign spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the Alliance for Rabies Control. The goal of World
Rabies Day is to promote education in local communities and to
mobilize and coordinate resources toward human rabies prevention and
animal rabies control.
Despite being 100 percent preventable, it is estimated that
55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year, approximately one
person every 10 minutes. It is estimated that every year 30,000 to
40,000 U.S. residents are potentially exposed to rabies and require
human rabies post-exposure treatment.
"World Rabies Day offers all of us a unique opportunity to
increase global awareness of the most deadly disease known to
humans," said Dr. Deborah Briggs, executive director for the
Alliance of Rabies Control. "With the initial major effort being the
declaration of World Rabies Day on Sept. 8, 2007, events are planned
throughout the world to increase awareness about rabies, and to
raise support and funding towards its prevention and control."
Events are planned throughout the world in at least 61 countries
by international and national human and animal health organizations,
human and veterinary public health professionals, nongovernmental
organizations, World Health Organization collaborating centers,
universities, and corporate and private partners.
Veterinary students at the University of Illinois will be doing
community outreach rabies educational programs for middle school to
high school students in association with World Rabies Day. This
activity coincides with one of the World Rabies Day campaigns,
"Teaching to Make Rabies History."
"The students have been working very hard to help raise awareness
about human and animal rabies and advance public health. We look
forward to doing our part to reduce rabies transmission on a local
level and contribute to the global reduction in rabies morbidity and
mortality," said Emily Eaton, senior delegate and president-elect of
the Student American Veterinary Medical Association.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous
system of humans and other mammals. Humans get rabies after being
bitten by an infected animal or if infectious material from a rabid
animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth
or a wound. Without preventive treatment, rabies is a fatal disease.
Any wild mammal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, coyote or bat,
can have rabies and transmit it to humans. The animal does not have
to be foaming at the mouth or be exhibiting other symptoms to have
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Changes in any animal's normal behavior, such as difficulty with
walking, or just an overall appearance of illness, can be early
signs of rabies. For example, skunks, which normally are nocturnal
and avoid contact with people, may appear friendly or ill and may
approach humans during daylight hours.
A bat that is active during the day, found in a place where bats
are not usually seen (such as in a home or on the lawn), or unable
to fly is more likely than others to be rabid. Such bats are often
easily approached but should never be handled. If you have contact
with a bat or have a bat in an occupied building, please contact
your local animal control and local health department.
Over the past century, rabies incidence in the country has
changed dramatically. More than 90 percent of all animal cases
reported annually now occur in wildlife, while before 1960, most
cases occurred in domestic animals. On average, one to two human
cases of rabies are reported in the United States each year, but no
human cases have occurred in Illinois since 1954.
The following tips can help prevent the spread of rabies:
Be a responsible
pet owner. Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and
ferrets. This requirement is important to keep your pets from
getting rabies and to provide a barrier of protection for you if
your animal is bitten by a rabid animal. Consider vaccinating
valuable livestock and horses or animals that will be exhibited
at fairs or petting zoos.
Keep pets under
direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild
animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or exposed to a
bat, seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately.
Call the local
animal control organization to remove stray animals in your
contact with unfamiliar animals. Do not handle, feed or
unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or
Never adopt wild
animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick
animals to health. Call animal control or an animal rescue
agency for assistance.
never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if
they appear friendly. "Love your own, leave other animals alone"
is a good principle for children to learn.
Prevent bats from
entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches,
schools and other similar areas where they might come in contact
with people or pets. Information about excluding bats may be
For more information about rabies, go to
For more information on World Rabies Day, go to
Department of Public Health news release received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]