World Rabies Day is held on 28th September to raise awareness of rabies - a major zoonotic disease which is often preventable. This year’s theme ‘Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths’ will highlight the connection of the environment with both people and animals.
Dog-mediated rabies is a preventable disease with highly effective human and animal vaccines to prevent death from the virus. The virus is predominately transmitted through dog bites and is almost always fatal when symptoms develop.
Every year 59,000 cases of rabies are recorded in over 150 countries, 40% of those bitten and die from rabies are children. The incubation period of rabies is long from 3 to 12 weeks, meaning those bitten do not often seek treatment promptly, however when rabies symptoms begin it is extremely likely to end in death.
Rural poor are most vulnerable to rabies
Educational health campaigns about dogs, and other wild animals which can carry the disease, are an effective at reducing disease rates.
Other interventions like community awareness programs providing knowledge on first aid around bites and vaccination drives aimed at-risk groups, such as the rural poor and farmers, can lower incidence rates.
Strengthening the rural health network will prevent deaths by providing more affordable and more accessible post-exposure prophylaxis for people. According to studies by the WHO, OIE, FAO and GARC over 80% of those who die from rabies live in rural areas, where health services are often patchy and expensive.
Rabies is a One Health issue and needs a One Health solution
But preventing the transmission of dog-mediated rabies also requires veterinarians and healthcare professionals to work together. This year’s theme ‘Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths’ aims to highlight the connection of the environment with both people and animals. Solutions to eradicate dog-mediated rabies needs to be transdisciplinary.
Large scale dog population surveys and constant disease surveillance are effective interventions to prevent rabies spreading in regions where the disease is endemic.
But, as all animals can catch rabies and pass it on, including cats, monkeys, and bats, surveys need to monitor rabies in wild animals too.
Neutering both pets and strays can lower the number of susceptible dogs in an area, in conjunction with canine vaccination clinics, this can prevent a rabies reservoir.
The World Health Organization, in partnership with the OIE, are is aiming to reduce dog-mediated rabies transmission by 2030 – with the ‘zero by 30’ campaign
Transdisciplinary investment in rabies prevention, awareness and education campaigns will save thousands of lives.
To find out more about dog-mediated rabies use this search string on Global Health: (rabies or "rabies virus") AND ("control" or "eradication" or "prevention" or "awareness" or "education" or "knowledge" or "community")
Global Alliance for Rabies Control (2022) https://rabiesalliance.org/news/world-rabies-day-2022-theme-here
World Health Organization(2022) https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2022/09/28/default-calendar/world-rabies-day-2022
World Health Organization ; Food and Agriculture Organization ; World Organisation for Animal Health (2018) Zero by 30: the global strategic plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272756/9789241513838-eng.pdf
Brazeau, S.; Ogden, N. H. (2022) Earth observation, public health and one health: activities, challenges and opportunities 2022 pp.xxix + 126 pp. CABI http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/9781800621183.0000
Zinsstag, J. ; Waltner-Toews, D. ; Tanner, M. (2021) Why one health? One Health: the theory and practice of integrated health approaches 2021 No.Ed.2 pp.15-24 ref.42 http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/9781789242577.0015