Drought Increases Rabies Risk

South San Francisco, CA   June10, 2015   Submitted by County of San Mateo Health System San Mateo County icon Everything South City

As California’s record-breaking drought continues and summer approaches, San Mateo County health officials are launching a campaign to educate the public about the benefits of vaccinating their pets against rabies.


Rabies is transmitted through animal bites and saliva. Animal bites are more common during the summer, as pets and people spend more time outside. And the drought is drawing many wild animals closer to houses as they look for water, which puts pets and people at greater risk.


“Show your love for your pets by making sure they are vaccinated against rabies,” said Dr. Julia Wang-Lewis, one of the County’s veterinarians. “Getting your pets vaccinated is the only way to protect them and the entire community against rabies, which is 100% fatal in animals and usually fatal in people if not treated right away.”


The “Protect Your Pets—Vaccinate Them” campaign will feature billboard, SamTrans, Caltrain, TV and movie theater advertising, as well as digital and direct public outreach.


Rabies occurs naturally in California. In 2014, 178 rabid animals were identified, including 2 cats and a dog. The rabies virus is always circulating in some San Mateo County wildlife populations and can be transmitted from wildlife to our pets and to us.


“Think about how many people one infected dog can come into contact with during one afternoon outside— now all those people are at risk,” said County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow. “We all have a responsibility to our pets, our families and each other to make sure our pets are protected and cannot spread rabies, which while 100% fatal in pets, is also 100% preventable.”


In addition to vaccinating their pets, residents should avoid contact with unfamiliar animals and enjoy wild animals from a distance. Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to rabies should contact his or her doctor immediately.


Once a pet is vaccinated against rabies, it’s also important to make sure the pet is licensed. Licensing is the best way to ensure pets are returned home if they get lost.


For more information, visit smchealth.org/rabies.


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