Each year, over 3,000 people in China die from the rabies virus. The vast majority of these incidents are dog bites. And children are by far the most vulnerable of the population, because they love to play with animals and might not mention a slight bite or scratch to their parents.
That’s why it’s crucial for expat families to seriously think about getting the three-shot rabies vaccine series for their children. The vaccine protects them from the 100 percent fatality rate of this all-too-common disease in China. The vaccination rate among expat families remains quite low, but rabies is common in the Beijing area among both stray and pet dogs. In one sad case in 2005, an expat father died 10 months after buying a harmless-looking puppy from their local pound. He got infected from playful licking and innocuous-appearing scratches. Because the mother and child were vaccinated, they were not infected.
Rabies is 100 percent fatal, there is no cure, and it’s a slow painful death – so please don’t let this happen to you or your loved ones!
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some helpful tips to share with your kids to prevent bites from dogs:
- Socialize your pet. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of people and other animals so it feels at ease in these situations; continue this exposure as your dog gets older.
- Train your dog. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between the dog and owner. Avoid aggressive games with your dog.
- Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases each year.
- Neuter or spay your dog. These dogs are less likely to be aggressive and bite.
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Teach your child to ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog.
- Let a strange dog sniff you or your child before touching it, and pet it gently, avoiding the face and tail.
- Never bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for its puppies.
- Do not run past a dog.
- If a dog threatens you, remain calm. Avoid eye contact. Stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your arms and fists.
Rabies is a serious issue, but it is not the most common pet-related problem I have seen. I often treat serious skin infections from bacteria such as staph, especially on the hands, from pet bites and scratches. In almost all cases, the cuts came from typical playful fun with their own pet. The number one treatment in all cases of bites and scratches is to immediately wash out the wound with soap and water.