The total elimination of dog-transmitted human rabies by 2030 has been called for in a joint statement by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) and World Medical Association (WMA).
The two organisations have joined forces to mark World Rabies Day on September 28 in collaboration with the “Rabies: Zero by 30 “campaign of Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).
Rabies claims the lives of an estimated 60,000 people each year, mainly affecting poorer people and children between the ages of five and 15. About 97 per cent of these deaths can be attributed to bites from dogs.
But 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 say 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, lack of administration of immunoglobulins, and an irregular supply of anti-rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin, particularly in primary healthcare facilities.
Lack of affordability of vaccines and immunoglobulin is also a contributing factor.
International and national vaccine manufacturers produce enough vaccine annually to deliver approximately 28 million rabies human PEP treatments in dog rabies-enzootic countries of Africa, Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean region, preventing nearly 98 per cent of human rabies deaths.
Unfortunately, easier access to rabies vaccine, particularly in urban centres of Africa and Asia, has been accompanied by an increasing proportion of PEP (up to 70 per cent) being administered to people who are not at high risk of developing rabies.
WVA President, Dr Johnson Chiang said, “Rabies control is a multidisciplinary and multidimensional activity. Participation and effective intersectoral cooperation among medical and veterinary professionals from government and academic institutions, civic and local bodies, national and international nongovernmental organizations, and animal welfare organizations is essential.”
WMA President, Dr Ketan Desai added,‘If dog-transmitted rabies is to be eliminated, strengthening legislation concerning pet ownership, reducing the population of stray and unowned free-roaming dogs, broadly implementing dog vaccination programs, and provision of early rabies diagnostic facilities and adequate post-exposure health care are prerequisites. Dog-transmitted rabies elimination is an ideal opportunity to move the ‘One Health’ concept forward’.