The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) has partnered with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to sponsor a statewide effort to raise rabies awareness and promote health guidelines to safely vaccinate animals.
This weeklong observance will take place Monday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 28. Each September, the two organizations collectively sponsor Rabies Awareness Week and raise awareness of the fatal disease, which occurs when a virus attacks the nervous system. Throughout the week, VVMA and VDH will educate families about rabies, promote guidelines to prevent pets’ exposure to the disease, and encourage veterinarians to offer the same messaging to their patients, and others in the veterinary medical field.
“Educating families on rabies is a great starting point in spreading awareness of this deadly, yet preventable, disease,” said Dr. Murphy, State Public Health Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Health. “Rabies can be avoided, but families must know how to take action beforehand. Vaccinating your pet brings you once step closer to protecting you and your family, so be sure to keep your pet up-to-date on all vaccinations and schedule frequent visits with your veterinarian. If you suspect your pet has exposure to rabies, please contact your local health department or animal control agency for guidance right away.”
The Virginia Department of Health confirmed 488 rabies cases in 2013. Although this constituted a 14 percent reduction from 2012, the VVMA and VDH seek to continue reducing the number of statewide cases. Although rabies is most commonly found in Virginia’s wildlife, the VVMA urges that any mammal, including humans, can get rabies.
“There has been a significant decrease of reported rabies cases in the last year by the Virginia Department of Health,” said Robin R. Schmitz, executive director of the VVMA. “We would like to continue this positive momentum. Each year, we partner with the Virginia Department of Health to inform the public on the dangers of rabies, and this week we hope to educate the community on the destructive impact and prevention methods of the disease. Our hopes are that the number of rabies cases will eventually diminish. The potential for exposure to rabies exists statewide, and it is critical that all residents of Virginia, whether pet owners or not, understand the severity of this disease.”
Particularly in Virginia, approximately 10 percent of animals diagnosed with rabies annually are domestic animals such as dogs and cats. The VVMA also reminds the Virginia community that rabies is deadly, yet preventable, simply by ensuring that pet owners keep all pet dogs, cats, ferrets and selected livestock vaccinated. Pet owners can limit the possibility of exposure to rabies by keeping animals on their property, avoiding exposure to wild animals and keeping pet food stored indoors, to avoid attracting wild animals on their land.
For more tips on preventing this deadly disease and for more information on rabies control, visit http://1.usa.gov/YcawrA. VVMA will also promote 2014 Rabies Awareness Week throughout September on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. To follow along with VVMA’s conversation on social media, be sure to follow them at @VirginiaVMA and #VAFightsRabies.