Veterinary and public health authorities to team up to eliminate
rabies worldwide

Rabies is a neglected and under-reported zoonotic
disease killing an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people each
year worldwide, particularly in children. The World Health
Organisation (WHO) recognizes rabies as the infectious
disease with the highest case fatality rate and 99% of
human deaths resulting from the bite of a rabid dog.

“Prevention at the animal source is the ultimate key in
dealing with a prevalent and perennial zoonosis like rabies.
It is the prime responsibility of the veterinary profession to
apply its knowledge and skills in animal disease control to
creating a buffer between the animal source of the disease
and susceptible human beings, ” said Dr Bernard Vallat,
Director General of the World Organisation for Animal
Health (OIE) at the International Conference that ended at
the OIE Headquarters in Paris.

“Good governance of veterinary services, better laboratory
diagnosis capacity and vaccination campaigns in
domesticated and wild animals are key actions to be taken.
Emphasis must also be put on raising public awareness of
rabies and on the need for collaboration with other
professions involved, namely the public health sector”, he
added.

The OIE demonstrated its commitment by supporting the
initiative to declare the 8 th of September as World Rabies
Day , starting in 2007.

Dog rabies elimination: a cost effective intervention

“The cost of a post-bite treatment in humans is about
twenty to one hundred times more costly than the
vaccination of a dog”, Dr Vallat commented. “This is why it
is cost effective that Ministries of Health provide financial
resources to Veterinary Services to control the disease at
its animal source”, he added.

Animal vaccination remains the method of choice to control
and eradicate rabies. For ethical, ecological and
economical reasons, the Conference considered that it is
not advisable to control and eradicate disease outbreaks
only by applying killing campaigns of potentially infected
animals.

“Governments should consider investing in dog rabies as
the best way to reduce escalating costs of post-exposure
prophylaxis. They should establish mechanisms for a fair
distribution of the costs and benefits of dog rabies
elimination between the various sectors involved,
particularly health and agriculture”, commented Dr
François Meslin of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Upstream control of rabies in dogs, including stray dogs,
should rank high on the agenda of developing countries'
national health and veterinary authorities for an efficient
prevention of human mortalities.

Canine rabies and rabies in wildlife: different targets in
different parts of the world

Worldwide the most common cause of human rabies
infections is dogs, but animal reservoirs of the disease
differ from one region of the world to the other.

In the northern hemisphere rabies in wildlife remains the
main problem. Rabies in domestic dogs is now very rare in
Western Europe . In Eastern European countries, the red
fox is the main reservoir for the disease and vulpine rabies
represents 50% of all cases. In this region in 2005, 1 in 3
cases of animal rabies involved domestic animals.

“The European Union has progressed significantly in the
elimination of rabies in wildlife by the use of oral
vaccination. We fully share the global concern on rabies
and support attempts by EU neighbouring countries to
eliminate the disease” said Dr Jean-Pierre Vermeersch of
the European Commission.

In developing countries the principal reservoir for rabies is
the dog. Today, Far East Asia is the region of the world
most affected by canine rabies and where countries have
the highest rates of human infections.
                                                                      
May, 2007
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