The two organisations have joined forces to mark World Rabies Day on September 28 in collaboration with the Rabies: Share the message – Save a life campaign of Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).
An estimated 60,000 people die from rabies each year mainly affecting poorer people and children between the ages of five and 15. A majority of these deaths, about 97 per cent, are attributable to dog bites.
Notifications and reporting of animal bites are generally not required in the countries in which these bites occur most commonly, leading to unreliable data on animal bites.
The WVA and WMA note that the global and endemic nature of rabies can also be attributed to a general lack of awareness of preventive measures, such as wound washing after bites occur, poor knowledge of proper post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) through vaccination and lack of administration of immunoglobulins.
International and national vaccine manufacturers produce enough vaccine annually to deliver approximately 28 million PEP treatments in dog rabies-enzootic countries (in Africa, Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean region), preventing nearly 98 per cent of human rabies deaths.
Unfortunately, access to PEP is limited and costly, the supply of immunoglobulins and vaccines can be irregular and public awareness of rabies is low.
Vaccination of domestic dogs is not widely implemented. There is a need for increased laboratory capacity and expertise, as well as better data, improved surveillance and more user-friendly and economical diagnostic tests.
However, a greater focus on mass dog vaccination could eliminate the disease at its source, reducing the large burden of mortality for at-risk communities.
WVA President, Dr Johnson Chiang said, “Education and awareness play an important role in preventing human rabies deaths. A priority shall be given to education for school children about vaccinating dogs, treating bite wounds and dog bite prevention. Community-level messages shall be also shared at all policy levels especially by governments to commit themselves to end rabies by 2030.”
WMA President, Dr Yoshitake Yokokura, added, “The total elimination of dog-transmitted human rabies would be greatly helped if we could reduce the population of stray and unowned free-roaming dogs. It is also important to implement dog vaccination programs.”