Friday, Sep. 28 marks the sixth annual World Rabies Day - an international effort to raise rabies awareness and save lives. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Press Release (Sep. 21, 2012), "every year more than 70,000 people die from rabies around the globe, with the majority of these deaths occurring in children under the age of 15."

World Rabies Day was founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). The goal of this initiative is to develop partnerships across the globe to address rabies prevention and control and to raise awareness of human and animal rabies and emphasize how easy it is to prevent this potentially fatal disease.

"This is a coordinated effort to let the world know that this disease can be readily prevented through education, pet vaccination and increased human awareness as to proper wound management and administration of rabies vaccination after an exposure has occurred", says Dr. Deborah Briggs, Executive Director for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control.

According to the World Rabies Day website, "[t]he mission of World Rabies Day is to raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent it, and how to eliminate the main global sources. Even though the major impact of rabies occurs in regions of the world where many needs are present, rabies should no longer be neglected. The tools and technology for human rabies prevention and dog rabies elimination are available."

In the United States, the greatest achievement in rabies control and prevention occurred half-a-century ago with the widespread implementation of dog vaccination and licensing requirements and stray dog control. However, despite the increased governmental requirements, we must remember that rabies continues to be present in the wildlife that is as close as our backyards and which can result in exposure of our pets and possibly our family members to this deadly virus. It is estimated that every year 30,000-40,000 people in the United States alone are potentially exposed to rabies requiring human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

Peter Costa, director for global communication for the GARC, says that dog bites are the most common transmitter of rabies to humans around the world. "Vaccinating animals and providing information and access to post-exposure treatment can prevent thousands of deaths. Once symptoms of the virus start, it's too late and almost always fatal."

This year, in an effort to eliminate rabies, the AVMA and GARC have partnered to produce an educational video - "Rabies: Simple Steps Save Lives." Click here to view the video on You Tube.

For more information on World Rabies Day, go to: