Eliminating rabies in dogs is the optimal control method for preventing spread of the disease

(13.03.2009) Dog vaccination and stray dog populations control are more efficient and cost effective than post-bite treatment in humans

Prevention at the animal source is the optimal key in dealing with a prevalent and perennial zoonotic disease like rabies. Upstream control of rabies infection in dogs, including the control of in excess stray dog populations, should rank high on the agenda of developing countries’ national health and veterinary authorities for an efficient prevention of human and animal mortalities.

“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 Bernard Vallat, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) explains.

« Currently with only 10% of the financial resources used worldwide to treat people after a dog bite Veterinary Services would be able to eradicate rabies in animals and thus stop almost all human cases ”, he added.

Animal vaccination remains the method of choice to control and eradicate rabies. For ethical, ecological and economical reasons, the OIE advises against trying to control and eradicate rabies by killing potentially infected animals, as a sole method.

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that all successful rabies eradication campaigns in the developing world have included programmes for the control of in excess stray dog populations as well as the systemic vaccination of owned dogs.

National Veterinary Services are a buffer between the animal source and human infections

It is the prime responsibility of veterinarians to apply their knowledge and skills in animal disease control to break the link between the animal source of the disease and infection of susceptible humans .

“Good governance of veterinary services, better laboratory diagnostic capacity and well structured vaccination campaigns in domestic and wild animals are the key actions to be taken. Raising public awareness of rabies and of the need for collaboration with other professions involved, namely the public health sector, should also be emphasised.

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

Worldwide the most common cause by far of human rabies infections is dog bites, but animal reservoirs of the disease differ from one region of the world another.

In developing countries the dog is the principal reservoir of rabies. Today, Far East Asia and Africa are the regions of the world most affected by canine rabies and where countries have the highest rates of human infection and human and animal deaths due to rabies.

In the northern hemisphere, where dog rabies has nearly been eliminated, rabies in wildlife is the main problem. In Eastern European countries, the red fox is the main reservoir for the disease and vulpine (fox) rabies represents the majority of all cases.

Rabies is a neglected and severely under-reported zoonotic disease in developing countries, killing each year worldwide an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people, mostly children with terrible suffering and a much higher number of animals.

The OIE strongly supports World Rabies Day on the 28 th of September.

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