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Today, Make Sure Rabies' Days Are Numbered

It seems sometimes that there's hardly a space on the calendar that hasn't been claimed for a campaign to raise awareness for an illness or health condition.

Today, for instance, is World Rabies Day, I learned from a tweet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting a celebration to learn about how to prevent the fatal disease.

Around the world more than 55,000 people a year die from rabies, a figure that surprised me. Rabies is caused by virus that's usually transmitted by animal bites, most often from dogs. About 40 percent of rabies cases are in kids, according to the World Health Organization.

So vaccinate your dog against rabies. Steer clear of wild animals — especially those that are acting up. The CDC says more than 90 percent of reported animal rabies cases in the U.S. are in wild animals. The top species: raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.

In case of an animal bite, get to the doctor pronto. Rabies shots after a bite, or other exposure, can halt the viral infection, but the window for treatment is short. Details here.

Don't wait to feel sick before seeking medical help. "If you start showing signs of illness, you've bought the farm," says veterinarian Charles Rupprecht at the CDC in the video below.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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