Jared Romero and Dr. Julia Oxford
Rabies is a virus spread via saliva, often through a bite by infected animals to people and can be spread to any mammal, including house pets like dogs and cats. Signs to look for are behavioral changes, paralysis, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and excessive saliva. The incubation of rabies varies greatly but until clinical signs are shown it cannot be transmitted and cannot be tested for in living animals, only by studying dead animal's brains. As of right now there is no cures for rabies, and it is most often deadly. There are on average 2 rabies cases in humans per year in the US but it is possible that as humans continue to expand and more wild animals are pushed into cities, we could see an increase in case numbers. Many people have outside pets, like cats, whose actions are not monitored and are not up to date on vaccines. In Idaho specifically, it is recommended that pets 12 weeks and older get rabies vaccinations yearly, but it is not required. This is surprising considering how rural Idaho is. There is also very little education around rabies for children, who are more likely to contract rabies as touching a wild animal seems of very little consequence. I believe the next step for us is to increase rabies education in the general population and in young children. One way we could do this is to begin educating young children in elementary school about the dangers of playing with wild animals beyond getting hurt and continue this education into future classes. By middle school kids should understand that rabies is not curable and if you get bit it can be fatal. Especially in rural states like Idaho this is essential for us to keep our pets and ourselves safe. With this increase in rabies education hopefully we will be able to stop rabies for ourselves and our pets so we can enjoy the wilderness together.
Petersen, Kassidi, "Rabies and One Health: When the Forest Enters the City" (2020). VIP 2020. 11.