Local animal expert calls rabies a ‘death sentence,’ urges owners to vaccinate pets

World Rabies Day

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – According to the The Global Alliance for Rabies Control, rabies is 99.9 percent fatal in humans. That is the highest fatality rate of any known disease. This is one reason why GARC coordinates World Rabies Day every September 28th.

The most people who die from rabies live in Africa and Asia, and nearly half of the victims are under the age of 15, according to a press release from the CDC. That is why the threat can be easy to forget for people in developed countries.

Muriel Tarver, a veterinarian technician with Standifer’s Animal Clinic, said rabies is a disease that everyone should take seriously.

“If one person is bitten or scratched by animal that has rabies, it’s a death sentence,” said Tarver.

If you own a dog, cat, or ferret, it is required under Alabama law that you vaccinate that pet for rabies. Other vaccinations are recommended, but rabies is the only one that is required.

“If it weren’t that important, it wouldn’t be required by law,” Tarver said.

Tarver said having proof of the vaccination is extremely important. This can either be through your pet’s tag or through an official certificate issued by your veterinarian’s office. This proof would be critical if your pet bit or scratched another person.

“Measures to prevent rabies in people are simple: wash the wound right after you are bitten and get follow-up care and vaccination immediately,” said Ryan Wallace, veterinary epidemiologist with CDC.

By law, hospitals are required to report bites to the health department.

“It’s just like having a driver’s license. If you take the driving test, you always have that license with you. It’s the same thing with pets (and their rabies vaccination proof),” Tarver said.

Tarver said this is all part of being a responsible pet owner, and also a responsible citizen.

The first rabies vaccines are required once the pet is 12-weeks-old. The shot should be given every year to stay compliant with Alabama law.

Tarver said because rabies vaccinations are required by law, the shot is affordable. The vaccines usually cost around $20 and are given at animal hospitals and clinics throughout the state.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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