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C2007-34

Dear Christopher Cat

I know that some diseases have been eradicated. Is that the case with rabies?

Christopher Responds

No. Every year, rabies kills 50,000 to 60,000 people around the world. Most are children.

Forty thousand Americans are treated after rabies exposure each year. In 2006, three people died.

The same year, 6940 cases of animal rabies were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The rabid animals included raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, groundhogs and other wild animals, as well as cats, cattle, dogs and other domestic animals.

In Pennsylvania, where I live, 504 animals tested positive for rabies, a 22 percent increase from 2005.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania led the country in the number of rabid domestic animals, most of which were cats like me -– except that they weren’t vaccinated for rabies.

As CDC researchers are quick to point out, “The number of reported cases of rabies represents only a fraction of the total cases that occur each year.”

To raise awareness about this preventable disease, public health scientists named September 8 the first World Rabies Day.

To observe the day, review your pets’ rabies certificates to ensure that their vaccinations are current. Talk with your children about preventing animal bites -– and reporting a bite if it does occur.

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