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Rabies day success

THE FIRST World Rabies Day has been hailed a success by all the organisations and agencies involved in the first exercise in co-ordinated global awareness of the disease.
Organisations involved in the new initiative include the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the UK charity Alliance for Rabies Control cosponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The organisations designated September 8, 2007 as the first World Rabies Day.
World Rabies Day aims to improve global awareness of rabies and how to prevent and control it, as well as support educational initiatives about rabies prevention, especially in areas of the world where the disease is prevalent.


In the UK, DEFRA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds welcomed the launch. The UK has had a system of quarantine for rabies-susceptible mammals for many years, and has also operated the Pet Travel Scheme since 2000, which allows certain animals including dogs and cats to enter the UK from a number of countries without the need for quarantine as long as they meet strict veterinary conditions.

Debby Reynolds said: ‘I am pleased to welcome the inaugural World Rabies Day. All action taken to raise awareness of this disease must be supported.

‘Much of Europe, including the UK, has been free of rabies for many years and the situation continues to improve in other European countries through wildlife vaccination programmes.’
The UK's rabies import controls are currently under review to ensure that they are proportionate and sustainable when weighed against the risk posed to animals and humans. The initial findings and evidence from the review suggest that current controls may no longer be proportionate to the risk of rabies entering the UK. Further evidence from this review is currently being studied.

US is declared ‘rabies free’

The CDC declared on World Rabies Day that the United States has been free of the type of rabies found in dogs.

The declaration is based on the national animal rabies surveillance data and attributes the elimination of canine rabies to the effort of state and local public health authorities in the prevention and control of rabies.

‘The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years,’ stated Dr. Charles Rupprecht, Chief of the CDC Rabies Program. ‘However, there is still much work to be done to prevent and control rabies globally.’
‘We are looking at this as larger than a one-day event,’ said Dr. Deborah Briggs, Executive Director of Alliance for Rabies Control, ‘This is the first-step in a long-term effort towards human rabies prevention and animal rabies control globally.’

In a press release, the CDC said that in the United States, canine-rabies was eliminated through implementation of dog vaccination and licensing, and stray dog control. ‘We remain optimistic that this official declaration of canine-rabies free status in the United States could be replicated throughout the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere,’ says Rupprecht.

However, adoption of dogs from other countries with canine-rabies could bring the disease into the country and change the country's current canine-rabies-free status, highlighting the need for global control and continued emphasis on rabies prevention and control from the local to national levels, the CDC says.

‘The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission of rabies does not mean that people in the US can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies,’ warned Rupprecht. ‘Rabies is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets. We need to stay vigilant.’

Although the dogs are free of rabies, the disease can originate from other animals such as bats, meaning the disease remains a human threat in the US, according to the CDC.

‘We can thank the tremendous historical efforts at the state and local levels over the past several decades for the ultimate elimination of canine rabies in the US,’ said Dr. Rupprecht. ‘Our public health infrastructure, including our quarantine stations, local animal control programs, veterinarians, and clinicians all play a vital role in preserving the canine-rabies-free status in the US.’

Rabies is a fatal condition but it is preventable by vaccination. It is important for people who are at risk through their work or through travelling to countries where rabies is circulating in animals to seek advice on vaccination. Once clinical rabies develops, it is almost always fatal. Those few people who have survived the infection have suffered serious long-term disability.

The real challenge is that rabies is preventable yet 50,000 people a year die from it worldwide. The public health challenge is using the effective tools we have (i.e. vaccine) in developing countries where it is most needed.

l The DEFRA review of UK rabies import control policies was announced on 17 November 2005. The main aims of the review are to ensure that UK rabies import controls are proportionate and sustainable given that their primary purpose is to protect animal health and to inform the UK's response to the European Commission's review of certain requirements to EC Regulation 998/2003.

The European Commission is due to submit a report on their review to the European Parliament and Council later this year.

Further information on the review of rabies import controls can be found at: