As huge crowds start to stream into New York City on Friday evening ahead of the biggest American party of the year, it is easy to forget about the marauding hordes who left India, Sudan and Uganda grappling with cholera and diphtheria earlier this week. But thankfully, the sunny New York winter won’t stay dreary for long. To commemorate the big night on New Year’s Eve, which falls on Sunday next year, a charitable organization is planning to distribute a stuffed toy in every seat on the dance floor in Times Square as a symbol of its plan to keep people safe. The toy will have an anti-rabies label on it in case it comes in contact with stray dogs and cats roaming the area. Riddles will be printed on the toy and accompanied by signs saying things like, “Please don’t wear fake fur, please don’t eat bagels, please don’t drop the ball, and yes, you can get vaccinated if you don’t know what to do.”
If things go according to plan, there will be a toy to go with every seat on the dance floor in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. https://t.co/wjJmqaQTJW pic.twitter.com/s2L64nEJ9Q — Newsweek (@Newsweek) November 23, 2018
The toy is part of the America Votes organization’s “Safer and Happier” initiative that aims to educate people about how to prevent a surge in the number of rabies cases in the United States over the next 15 years if they’re not vaccinated. National Health and Medical Director for the city’s Health Department Dr. Mary Bassett said the viral diseases that could lead to other infections are now “more prevalent and more likely to bite us” than they were in the past. She estimated that over the past century, 25 million dogs have been exposed to rabies and just 80 Americans have ever died from the disease.
The only way to make sure your own dog doesn’t bite you on New Year’s Eve, it seems, is to be well-vaccinated for rabies. To do so, the organization provides a free rabies vaccine online. “Though no vaccine is 100 percent effective, if you have been vaccinated and are in close contact with an animal with an infectious rabies virus,” the organization’s website instructs, “you should remain in your home at least three hours after the animal stops breathing and travel should be avoided.”