Monday, 11 August 2008

World Rabies Day, 28 September

If you're in a position to fund-raise, carry out research, or become involved in a social development project, consider this important cause.

From the World Rabies Day website:
"...more than 55,000 people, mostly in Africa and Asia, die from rabies every year - a rate of one person every ten minutes. The most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies. They are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be severely exposed through multiple bites in high-risk sites on the body. Severe exposures make it more difficult to prevent rabies unless access to good medical care is immediately available. This major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access of those bitten to appropriate medical care."

Those of us who live in parts of the world where rabies is not a pressing public health concern shouldn't take that fact for granted. Ensuring that pets receive rabies vaccinations and efforts to prevent rabies from spreading in wildlife species help to account for why, in Canada, rabies so rarely afflicts people.

A freely-available academic paper summarizes previous research on preventing infectious diseases from being transferred from animals to people, including work showing that even in resource-poor countries, mass vaccination of dogs against rabies is a cost-effective way of preventing rabies from spreading to people:
Zinsstag, J., E. Schelling, F. Roth, B. Bonfoh, D. de Savigny and M. Tanner
2007 Human benefits of animal interventions for zoonosis control. Emerging Infectious Diseases 13(4):527-31.

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