Rabies is not something I had to think about about when I was growing up in the UK. With the UK being an island with very strict quarantine laws, rabies was something that was basically non-existent. Although I was aware that rabies exists in North America, I hadn't particularly thought about it much here either. However, twice this spring my son has brought warnings home from school about rabies. Despite the fact that the warnings admit that it is very rare for anyone to die from rabies, we have been encouraged to put the following notice on our fridges:
Serious as rabies can be, with the very mild winter we have had this year, I think they are sending notices home about the wrong thing. The local media has been full of information about how it is likely to be a record tick season because the warm winter didn't kill off the ticks the way it usually does. Ticks carry Lyme disease, which is really quite unpleasant if not treated promptly. Another pest that is more likely to affect people this year is the tiger mosquito. Native to Asia, the tiger mosquito was first found in the USA in 1985. It's smaller than most mosquitoes, but its bite causes more irritation than most and, unlike the mosquitoes we are used to around here, it dines throughout the day, not just at night. The tiger mosquito is capable of transmitting a variety of diseases including the potentially fatal West Nile virus.
Somehow, I think people are far more likely to be bitten by a mosquito or a tick than by a rabid bat or raccoon! It's also more likely that you would seek medical help if bitten by a raccoon or a bat, so, nasty as rabies is, to my mind the tick and the mosquito are significantly more dangerous.