Make Rabies History (World Rabies Day 2012)

September 28, 2012 marks the sixth World Rabies Day.  This annual event, led by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, provides a unique platform for individuals and organisations to raise awareness and understanding about the importance of rabies prevention.

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Commenting BVA President, Carl Padgett, said:

“Rabies remains of one of the most serious viral zoonoses presently encountered worldwide.  Despite being 100% preventable, it is estimated that 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year, approximately one person every ten minutes.

 “The BVA is extremely proud to support World Rabies Day.  This campaign offers a tremendous opportunity to increase global awareness of this devastating, yet totally preventable, disease.”

Since the inaugural World Rabies Day campaign in 2007 more than 2000 events in 150 countries have helped to vaccinate 7.7 million animals, and an estimated 182 million people have learned about how to prevent the disease.

Dogs are the main reservoir for rabies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and are responsible for the majority of human deaths worldwide.  Children are often at greatest risk from rabies as they are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be severely exposed through multiple bites in high-risk sites on the body.

Mr Padgett added:

“Dogs suffer abuse and persecution that stems from being the main source of rabies in people, as well as the agony of the disease itself.  The risks posed by these mostly stray dogs are an issue that governments and societies deal with in a variety of ways, many of them regarded as inhumane.

“This major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access of those bitten to appropriate medical care.  The veterinary profession has an important role to play in protecting domestic animals and the general public from rabies.

“World Rabies Day campaign is an excellent example of ‘One Health’ in action and we must all do everything we can to maintain the momentum created by this initiative to reduce the global burden of rabies.  Together we can make rabies history!”

While most cases occur in Africa and Asia, the tragic case earlier this year of a woman who died from rabies in a London hospital after returning from a trip to India, highlights the importance of travellers heeding rabies advice if they are visiting rabies endemic areas.  The BVA Overseas Group has produced some simple advice on reducing the risk of contracting the disease and gives guidance on vaccination and wound cleansing.

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