CDC: Rabies remains a significant global health threat

Today is World Rabies Day, a global health observance started in 2007 to raise awareness about rabies prevention and control efforts worldwide.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that while the number of rabies-related human deaths in the US has declined considerably over the last century—with only 1 to 3 reported per year, and a total of 23 reported cases in the last decade—it’s a much bigger problem in the rest of the world. According to the World Health Organization, rabies causes an estimated 55,000 human deaths each year, mostly in Asia and Africa.

And yet it remains a 100% preventable disease.

Major health organizations including the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health have pledged to eliminate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

The people at Merial are doing their part.

In recognition of World Rabies Day, Merial, part of Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), donated 75,000 doses of rabies vaccine to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).

The donation is a result of the Shots for Good initiative, in which BI pledged to donate doses of rabies vaccine for every dose of Purevax, Recombitek, and Imrab vaccine purchased by participating veterinary practices from July 2 to August 10, 2018.

The donated vaccines will support a mass dog vaccination campaign in Madagascar to control the disease and limit the potential for reintroduction of rabies from neighboring countries.

“The support of our participating veterinary practices made this donation possible,” said Zach Mills, DVM, executive director of BI’s US Pet Veterinary Professional Services. “With more than a decade of experience advocating for rabies prevention, the GARC has the infrastructure to put this donation to good use.”

In expressing GARC’s gratitude for the donated vaccines, Louis Nel, PhD, chief executive officer of GARC, said, “Dog-mediated rabies disproportionately affects rural and economically disadvantaged communities. By preventing rabies at its source, we can help protect those who lack access to effective rabies treatment.”

But while the focus of World Rabies Day is, by definition, a global one, the veterinary profession still has plenty of work to do here at home, as Link Welborn, DVM, DABVP, former AAHA president, reminds us.

Welborn, a veterinarian at AAHA-accredited Tampa Bay Animal Hospitals in Tampa, Florida, is chair of the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines Task Force.

“Raising awareness about the devastating worldwide impact of rabies and the importance of prevention through the efforts associated with World Rabies Day is very worthwhile,” Welborn told NEWStat. “While much of the focus is understandably on those areas of the world where rabies is rampant, we can’t become complacent regarding rabies in the United States and Canada.”

Wellborn points out that there have been nine confirmed cases of rabies in animals in the Tampa Bay area this year alone, mostly in cats.

“The vaccination of pets remains critically important not only to protect animals, but also to safeguard public health,” Welborn added.

Today’s a good day to remember that.

Photo credit: © istock/tupungato