United States Feline Rabies Cases Increase

Although overall reported cases of rabies in the United States fell in 2008, officials warn that an increase in reported cases in cats poses a health risk to both people and animals.

According to a joint report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), almost 7000 animals were reported to have rabies in the United States and Puerto Rico in 2008 – 3% less than in 2007. There were only 2 cases of rabies in humans in 2008. The CDC report concludes that rabies affects wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes, which accounted for 93% of cases in 2008, much more than domestic animals. Only 294 cases of rabies were reported in domestic animals in 2008.

While dog-related cases fell considerably from 2007, the number of cases of rabies in cats increased 12% to 294 in 2008. Data from the AVMA suggests that cats are not being appropriately vaccinated against rabies as much as dogs are – 36.3% of cat-owning households did not visit a veterinarian in 2006, while far fewer dog-owning households did not visit a veterinarian. Because cats are more likely to interact with wild animals than dogs, the CDC believes vaccination is crucial.

"The CDC’s general belief is that people are doing a good job vaccinating their dogs, but not their cats," Blanton said. "We have controlled canine rabies through the vaccination of domestic dogs, so we know that vaccinating works."

More than 55,000 people are killed by rabies every year according to the World Health Organization. In conjunction with World Rabies Day on September 28th, the CDS hopes that releasing this data will help convince pet owners that responsible pet keeping involves vaccination.

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