Rabies is the deadliest viral infection known, with no reliable treatment, and although it is entirely preventable, rabies continues to kill more than 60,000 people every year, mostly children in countries where dog rabies is endemic. America is only 1 generation away from the time when rabies killed more than 10,000 animals and 50 Americans every year, but 3 to 5 Americans continue to die annually from rabies. Distressingly, > 50,000 Americans undergo rabies prevention therapy every year after exposure to potentially rabid animals. While enormous progress has been made, more must be done to defeat this ancient but persistent, fatal zoonosis.
In the US, lack of public awareness and ambivalence are the greatest dangers imposed by rabies, resulting in unnecessary exposures, anxiety, and risk. Veterinarians have a special role in informing and reassuring the public about prevention and protection from rabies. This summary of current facts and future advances about rabies will assist veterinarians in informing their clients about the disease.