Rabies, a zoonotic viral disease, infects domestic and wild animals and is transmitted to other animals and humans through close contact with saliva from infected animals – such as a bite or scratch that breaks the skin. Once disease symptoms develop, rabies is fatal. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control estimates that every 10 minutes of every day one person in our world dies as a result of rabies. This adds up to 55,000 reported deaths per year caused by rabies – a preventable disease. The vast majority of these deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Children are at particular risk.
Why are more than three billion people – about half the world’s population – living in countries where dog rabies still exists and are potentially exposed to this deadly, but preventable, disease? The short answer is, dogs are not being vaccinated. When 70 per cent of the dog population is vaccinated against rabies, human cases are dramatically reduced or even eliminated.
In 2006, a group of researchers and professionals formed a global Alliance for Rabies Control. They created and began inviting partners to join the World Rabies Day initiative. World Rabies Day now involves every major human and animal health partner at the international, national, state/provincial, and local levels as well as veterinary, medical and other specialized professional and student organizations, corporate and non-profit partners. The goal of this outreach is to mobilize awareness and resources in support of human rabies prevention and animal rabies control. With the initial goal of engaging 55,000 people to take action, one for each person who dies each year from rabies, the inaugural campaign in September 2007 saw participation from nearly 400,000 people in 74 countries!
This overwhelming response was an important step forward for rabies prevention and control and further illustrates the widespread recognition of the need for action to control this easily preventable disease. Since the inaugural campaign in 2007, World Rabies Day events have been held in 135 countries; educating 150 million people and vaccinating 4.6 million dogs.
September 28, 2011 is World Rabies Day. To learn more about this important event, or to participate in planned activities, go to their website at http://www.worldrabiesday.org/.
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