Rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans), caused by the rabies virus, of the Lyssavirus genus, within the family Rhabdoviridae. Domestic dogs are the most common reservoir of the virus, with more than 95% of human deaths caused by dog-mediated rabies.

Rabies (WHO)

Protecting Against Rabies- It’s the law

Massachusetts Law states:

Section 145B. (a) Each owner or keeper of a dog, cat or ferret that is 6 months of age or older shall cause such dog, cat or ferret to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian using a licensed vaccine according to the manufacturer’s directions and shall cause such dog, cat or ferret to be revaccinated at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Unvaccinated dogs, cats or ferrets acquired or moved into the commonwealth shall be vaccinated within 30 days after the acquisition or arrival of such animal into the commonwealth or upon reaching the age of 6 months, whichever last occurs.

What precautions should be used to protect against rabies?

There are several precautions everyone can take to avoid any possible exposures to rabies.

1. Vaccinate your pets. The cases that usually represent the highest numbers of human exposures involve rabid domestic animals. The most common domestic animal to contract rabies is the cat. None of the cats that tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts had a current vaccination. Ask your veterinarian to be sure that your animal has a current rabies vaccination.

2. Do not let your pets roam free. Humans are frequently exposed to rabies through handling a pet that has fought with a rabid animal. It is natural to want to console your animal after it has been in a fight. However, if any saliva from the rabid animal is left on your pet’s fur, there is a definite risk of exposure.

3. Avoid any contact with wild animals, alive or dead. The behavior of rabid animals is unpredictable. Approaching a sick animal, no matter what condition it appears to be in, is dangerous. The rabies virus can be active after the host animal dies, but it can only be transmitted if there is direct contact. If you must handle wildlife, wear gloves.