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Working together to make rabies history



DESPITE BEING entirely preventable, through vaccination and prompt medical treatment, rabies continues to kill over 55,000 people annually. Mostly children and mainly in Africa and Asia, it is easy for those in a country free of the disease to forget its impact, yet two-thirds of the world’s population still live in a rabies endemic area.

The first ever World Rabies Day, being held this Saturday September 8, aims to increase global awareness of the issue and the means available to prevent it. Building on the ‘one medicine’ concept, namely better integration of veterinary and medical expertise in the fight against disease, the initiative is driven by scientists and professionals working in the field and supported, among others, by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) who have described rabies as a neglected disease.

With events planned internationally, the BVA is marking the event through a series of articles commissioned by its journal The Veterinary Record for its September 1 issue. The articles discuss the thinking behind the initiative and the role that veterinarians can play in tackling the disease worldwide, not least since, as the authors demonstrate, all the tools needed to prevent rabies are available. Even in the poorest regions of the world where canine rabies continues to be endemic, human cases could be prevented by increasing awareness of the cause of the disease and how to prevent it.

The key message from the series of articles is that rabies is preventable and primarily a disease of poverty, ignorance and neglect. It can only be hoped that World Rabies Day will be successful in its aims and provide the impetus for a will internationally to put mechanisms in place to tackle the problem effectively. Only then will rabies cease to be a neglected disease.

The Alliance for Rabies Control www.rabiescontrol.org, a charity formed in 2006 by a group of researchers and professionals committed to eradicating rabies, is the driving force behind World Rabies Day www.worldrabiesday.org