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In recent years, hesitancy around vaccination has spread to pet owners, raising concerns about a resurgence of rabies, a virus that is almost always fatal.

Some pet owners argue against vaccinating dogs – in the belief that vaccines shorten a dog’s lifespan or that vaccines can cause autism in dogs. But the autism spectrum is uniquely human and anti-vaccination campaigns among dog owners are particularly dangerous given the public health consequences of rabies, he said.

“Thankfully, while we don’t see many cases of rabies, the consequences are devastating,” Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told USA Today. “It’s basically 100% fatal. So getting your cat and dog vaccinated against rabies is very important on many levels.

Carlson, of the AVMA, emphasized how important it is for people to talk to their veterinarians about vaccinations and the risks their pets may face if they are not vaccinated.

What is rabies?

Rabies is spread when an infected animal bites or scratches a human and infects the nervous system of a mammal. The virus becomes especially dangerous when it reaches the brain. The incubation period can be days or more than a year.

When rabies enters the brain, it causes flu-like symptoms that lead to rabies in animals and brain swelling. The disease becomes fatal when an infected person or animal suddenly loses breathing and heart function.

The seriousness of rabies: This rabies was not west of the Appalachians until a stray cat was spotted in Nebraska.

The risks of not being vaccinated for the disease are not related to some pet owners.

Matt Mota, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, called the balloons a “fluid effect” among people skeptical of human vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic. He worries that “dog vaccine hesitancy” may grow in states that mandate rabies vaccinations. If those laws are dismantled, successful decades-old health startups will be at risk.

“We’re seeing more and more dogs that are not vaccinated,” he told USA TODAY. “This poses a public health threat not only to pets, but to all of us.”

Mota and his sister, Dr. Gabrielle Mota, a Pennsylvania veterinarian, published a 2023 study showing that nearly 40% of American dog owners believe that dog vaccines are dangerous. 37% of owners think their dogs can get autism from vaccinations.

The truth, Motta says, is that the rabies vaccine is safe.

Two in a million dogs develop serious complications from vaccination.

Dog autism is not a recognized condition, the AVMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told USA TODAY. The notion that human measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines cause autism in children has long been disproved. However, it still persists, causing some people to refuse to vaccinate their children. This avoidance has contributed to several recent outbreaks, public officials warn, and say vaccinations are critical to community health. Avoiding pet vaccinations follows a similar pattern.

public health; How is leprosy spreading domestically in America? Some experts suggest armadillos.

As with measles, health officials have worked for decades to eradicate rabies, a disease unique to dogs. Successful public health campaigns include leash laws, use of animal shelters, and vaccinations. Wild rabies species in North America still circulate and can infect dogs.

Rabid dogs are a global concern: almost all rabies deaths are caused by dog ​​bites. A total of about 59,000 people die each year.

Dr. Ryan Wallace, director of the CDC’s rabies program, said that nearly 75 million dogs have been vaccinated over the past three years, which means that despite the change in attitudes, vaccinations do not appear to be decreasing. The AVMA, like the CDC, hasn’t seen a big drop in vaccinations, although the numbers are hard to track.

Wallace said that while people’s attitudes about pet vaccinations differ, some are hesitant and in most states, strict mandates require dogs to be vaccinated, but pet owners mostly seem to be complying.

A common issue in public health is that when systems work, people do not see the problems in front of them. While there are few rabies deaths in the U.S. – one to three per year – 60,000 Americans have been vaccinated against rabies after coming into contact with an animal they suspect has rabies. Rabies still spreads among wild animals.

“We focus on how many of these rare deaths occur, but how long people and their pets are exposed to rabid animals. Because they’re all gone.”