Educate, Vaccinate, Eliminate: Achieving zero human deaths from dog- transmitted rabies by 2030

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Today, on the occasion of World Rabies Day, WHO, OIE and FAO are calling on countries to accelerate efforts to combat rabies in three steps:

EDUCATE         by raising awareness of rabies among at-risk populations

VACCINATE     by implementing large-scale dog vaccination and ensuring prompt                          delivery of post-exposure treatment to humans in areas at risk of                             rabies

ELIMINATE     by targeting a world free from dog-mediated human rabies death                             by 2030

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

The World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are reiterating their call for a world free from human rabies transmitted by dogs by 2030. This year’s theme – Educate, Vaccinate, Eliminate – outlines the key steps required to attain this goal in line with the global vision endorsed at the WHO/OIE Global Rabies Conference organized in collaboration with FAO and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) held in December 2015.

What is Rabies?

It is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals. (Wiki)  Early symptoms can include fever and tingling at the site of exposure. These symptoms are followed by one or more of the following symptoms: violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, an inability to move parts of the body, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Once symptoms appear, the result is nearly always death.  The time is dependent on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system.

Rabies is spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. Saliva from an infected animal can also transmit rabies if the saliva comes into contact with the eyes, mouth, or nose. Globally, dogs are the most common animal involved. More than 99% of rabies cases in countries where dogs commonly have the disease are caused by dog bites. In the Americas, bat bites are the most common source of rabies infections in humans, and less than 5% of cases are from dogs.

Children in underserved, rural populations are particularly vulnerable, and face a daily threat of rabies. Of all the neglected tropical diseases, rabies ranks as one of the highest, with as many as an estimated 59, 000 estimated deaths worldwide.

Rabies is 100% vaccine-preventable in animals and humans. Most cases can be prevented by vaccinating dogs, avoiding dog bites and raising awareness among communities.  There is no cure for rabies once symptoms develop, and bite victims invariably die a slow, painful death unless post-bite treatment is promptly administered.

EDUCATE. A cornerstone of rabies elimination is raising public awareness of rabies as an entirely preventable disease.

Rabies awareness campaigns adapted to the local situation are essential to motivate responsible dog ownership, including vaccination of dogs against rabies, prevent dog bites and administer first aid for bite victims including wound washing and rabies post-exposure injections. Awareness raising encourages communities to fight rabies and fosters political commitment at local, national, regional and international levels for allocating the needed resources.

VACCINATE. Vaccination of dogs prevents rabies at its animal source and stops the rabies virus from circulating. Human vaccines reduce fatalities induced by bites of possible rabies-infected dogs.

Wider access to safe, efficacious and accessible dog and human vaccines and immunoglobulins is needed in all communities at risk of rabies. Mass vaccination of dogs in at-risk areas has proven the most cost–effective, long-term intervention for interrupting transmission of human rabies transmitted by dogs.

Since 2012, the OIE dog Rabies Vaccine Bank has provided a secure supply of quality-assured vaccines manufactured in accordance with OIE international standards. To match the OIE-led dog Rabies Vaccine Bank, WHO plans to create a human rabies vaccine stockpile to be operational by the end of 2017. These initiatives are intended to accelerate rabies elimination programmes in countries.

ELIMINATE. Achieving zero human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030 is feasible but relies on political commitment and support. The 2015 Global Rabies Framework promotes a stepwise approach to assist countries to successfully eliminate rabies, by prioritizing actions and allocating resources.

WHO, OIE and FAO together with countries and partners target the elimination of rabies through education and vaccination, contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, by ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages, everywhere.