Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Internets are Amazing Things

I got a phone call first thing this morning from a Northern California county public health department employee. He had been web surfing, looking for information on feline rabies control laws and found my blog and decided to enlist my help.

He was looking for a site that listed information from all 50 states and whether or not they had a statewide feline rabies vaccination requirement. After I searched for about an hour I actually found one such site. So I emailed the information to him, and hope it helps him.

Our conversation, not surprisingly, was somewhat along these lines:
HIM: I can't believe every state in the union doesn't require rabies vaccination in cats.
ME: Tell me about it. I just don't get it. Pure foolishness.
HIM: Yeah. Sigh.
ME: Do you have rabid bats up there? We sure have a lot down here.
HIM: Yeah, lots of rabid bats.

This whole thing came at an odd time, because just yesterday we had in the hospital a cat that got exposed to a bat a couple of years ago and had to be quarantined for 6 months. It had never been vaccinated against rabies, and found a bat on the owner's balcony and brought it into the house, but then the bat escaped and could not be tested. The owners don't want any MORE quarantines, so now they keep Kitty up on his vaccinations.

We seem to have to fight the same battles against ignorance and misinformation year after year after year. At one time, I naively expected the internet to magically make every citizen an informed citizen, and preventable diseases would be a thing of the past. Sadly, you can still lead a horse to water and yet still can't make him drink.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of rabies cases reported in cats is routinely 3-4 times as that of rabies reported in cattle or dogs. Both CDC and the World Health Organization strongly recommend vaccinating ALL cats against rabies, regardless of their lifestyle (in only vs in/out). Southern California has a significant ongoing problem with endemic rabies in the local bats, and cats are highly susceptible to bites from "downer" bats due to their curious nature and predatory/play behavior. And yet the City of Los Angeles and the State of California do not see fit to pass legislation that would require protection of the public's health by vaccinating all cats against rabies. They would rather try to pass laws that would tax my profession out of business, I suppose.

Clients often ask me why all the fuss about rabies. Clearly our celebrity-obsessed, fashion-conscious, reality-tv-addicted society has lost its collective memory of the human horrors of this disease. But I for one will never forget. I have been exposed to rabies just once, in 1987, and count myself lucky to be telling of it, along with the 21 others who also did not die. And the families of the 25-30,000 people who do die of this disease EVERY YEAR in India alone will of course not forget.

I got that last statistic off the internets. The truth is out there, just waiting to be noticed. I told you it was amazing.