Not many days go by when I don’t get a few calls about rabies. Here are a couple from yesterday that highlight some important issues.
An indoor cat tangled with a bat. The bat’s no longer around to test so this is considered a potential rabies exposure (bats being important rabies vectors, and catching and snacking on a bat being a potential way to encounter the virus). Unfortunately, the cat was not vaccinated against rabies, meaning it needs a strict 6 month quarantine, or euthanasia. A cheap and easy rabies vaccination would have significantly reduced the issue, changing that to a 45 day observation period, and greatly decreasing the risk that the cat would develop rabies. Indoor cats need to be vaccinated. Even if the cat never goes outside, rabies virus can find its way inside (and the number of indoor cats that get into fights with wildlife or hit by cars indicates that indoor cats aren’t always indoors!). I have personal experience with that.
A horse in Texas was diagnosed with rabies. Rabies is uncommon in horses but it certainly occurs. As above, rabies vaccination is cheap insurance. No vaccine guarantees protection but it’s a very effective vaccine, a fatal disease, and horses with rabies have attacked and killed people. Every horse (in or traveling to any rabies-endemic country) should be vaccinated against rabies.
Additionally, various (continuous) reports of rabies deaths in India also highlight the importance of controlling rabies at the population level, to reduce the risk of exposure by reducing the number of rabid animals. There is also an absolutely critical need for healthcare providers to properly handle potential rabies exposures.
The Texas rabies case can be found on Worms & Germs Map (www.wormsandgermsmap.ca), along with some other recent cases.