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Rabies experts unveiled a blueprint for elim-
inating the pernicious disease, which almost
always is caused by bites from rabid dogs and
kills tens of thousands of people a year worldwide,
through a programme of mass dog vaccinations
in targeted regions.
The viral disease is rare in developed countries
thanks to routine vaccination of pet dogs, but still
kills about 69,000 people globally every year, mostly
in poor and rural parts of Africa and Asia. About
a third of rabies-related deaths are in India alone.
Vaccines for people and dogs have long existed,
but rabies has persisted in the absence of a concerted
effort to wipe it out. The international team of
experts, writing in the journal Science last Thursday,
proposed what they called a cost-effective and
achievable strategy for ending canine-spread rabies.
Efforts in Latin America and pilot projects in
Africa and Southeast Asia have shown that mass
dog vaccination programmes can prevent human
rabies in low-income countries as well as wealthy
ones, they said. Vaccinating 70 per cent of dogs
in a given region is the threshold for halting rabies,
"There is now convincing evidence that vacci-
nation of dogs would eliminate greater than 98 per
cent of the rabies health burden globally," said Guy
Palmer, director of Washington State University s
Paul G Allen School for Global Animal Health.
"Rabies is an ancient plague. Descriptions of
human suffering and death can be seen since the
earliest times of recorded history. Even today, rabies
is the most consistently fatal infectious disease of
humans," added Palmer, noting that virtually every
person who develops symptoms dies.
Felix Lankester, director of the Serengeti Health
Initiative that conducts dog vaccination campaigns
in rural villages around Tanzania s Serengeti National
Park, said the primary focus of the international
effort would be mass dog vaccination in countries
where rabies is endemic.
Multiple small- to medium-sized areas would
be targeted to create disease-free zones, then the
size of those zones would be increased and the
various zones would coalesce into a bigger dis-
ease-free region, Lankester said.
A co-ordinated global effort would cost hundreds
of millions of dollars and perhaps several billions,
Lankester estimated, and would need international
health agencies, charities, governments of rabies-
endemic countries and others on board.
"We know how and we have the ammunition
to do it," Lankester said. "I am optimistic that it
can be done. Whether the necessary political will
and funding will be harnessed is another matter."
Rabies remains a threat to half the world s people
and about 40 per cent of victims are children, the
The virus, present in an infected animal s saliva,
is transmitted to people through a deep bite. It is
one of the few diseases in which a person can be
protected by a vaccine after being exposed.
Its incubation period is usually one to three
months. As the virus spreads through the central
nervous system, fatal inflammation of the brain
and spinal cord occurs. (Reuters)
A veterinarian prepares a dosage of rabies vaccine at
the 2014 Taipei Pet Show at Nangang Exhibition Hall
Dog being treated
with rabies vaccine.
Experts unveil plan to end
rabies via dog vaccinations
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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