Published by VSF International and Vets Beyond Borders Australia. September 2021.
Rabies is a neglected zoonotic disease that causes an estimated 59,000 human deaths every year, with 40% of the victims being children. Rabies affects the most vulnerable populations: most cases are found in Africa and Asia, and
80% of cases occur in rural areas. Rabies virus transmission is mainly through a bite or direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with saliva of an infected animal. Dogs are responsible for 99% of human cases. Eliminating rabies in dogs is therefore the key to achieving elimination of human rabies.
The economic burden of the disease is estimated at 8.6 billion USD annually.
This occurs despite the availability of anti-rabies vaccines for both animals and humans, which are critical in supporting eradication efforts. Rabies is almost 100% preventable through the administration of safe, effective and extensively available vaccines for humans and animals. However, mortalities are mainly attributed to high treatment costs or lack of access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is coupled with the majority of victims exposed to the virus being unaware of the dangers posed by the disease or lacking access to basic medical care.
VSF International is supporting rabies eradication efforts in its areas of intervention, and promotes a holistic approach based on One Health, integrating human, animal and environmental health. Mass vaccination of dogs coupled with population control measures, prompt dog bite management, community education and outreach, improvements in reporting, diagnosis and surveillance are among the key strategic approaches to rabies eradication adopted by the VSF International network.
By working closely with the communities, key government line ministries and counterpart agencies and institutions, we have been supporting eradication efforts in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Algeria, Morocco, India, Cambodia, the Czech Republic and Canada.
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