Many people consider Rabies to be an obscure disease of yesteryear, similar to Smallpox or Polio. The fact is that the great advances this country has made to keep Rabies at bay are largely due to rigorous Rabies laws and high levels of compliance in vaccinating our pet population. Rabies is a virus that can be transmitted by any mammal, but most commonly is transmitted by foxes, skunks, bats, and raccoons. Since 1992, fox, bat, and raccoon variants have all been isolated in New Hampshire. State law mandates that all cats, dogs, and ferrets over 12 weeks of age be vaccinated for Rabies. Rabies is found in the brain, spinal cord, and saliva of an infected mammal. It is spread primarily through contact with those areas through breaks in the skin, or contact with the eyes, mouth or nose.
Worldwide, Rabies claims the lives of 55,000 people annually, nearly all in developing
countries. In this country, vaccination as well as control of stray animals have both contributed significantly to the reduction of human rabies cases. Last October in Vermont 15 people required treatment for exposure to Rabies as the result of a nine week old puppy dying from the disease. With the increase in prevalence of dogs and cats being imported from distant shelters, diseases that may not be common in this area can be imported. Even more recently, earlier this month a fox that chased a nine year old boy, and attacked a five year old girl in Derry, tested positive for Rabies. Aside from being a legal obligation, vaccinating our pets for Rabies is part of our responsibility as pet owners to keep this deadly disease as rare as possible.