Mass dog vaccinations key to eliminating rabies

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WHO works with governments to strengthen surveillance and improve their laboratory capacity to confirm rabies cases. Communities also play a big role in reporting disease in their surroundings. File Photo: Daniel Stewart/WHO

A new approach to rabies launched on Thursday could save tens of thousands of lives and relegate the disease "to the history books," the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.

Rabies is mainly spread by dog bites and is almost always fatal, but the UN health agency and its partners say it is "100% preventable" through vaccination and post-bite immunization.

However, most cases occur in poor rural areas of Asia and Africa where the cost of treatment is out of the reach of those who need it.

Dianne Penn has the story.

The new framework calls for eliminating rabies by conducting mass dog vaccinations.

Vaccinating dogs is key as it only costs about US$1, whereas post-bite treatment can cost up to US$50, or roughly 40 days of wages in some affected countries.

Dr Margaret Chan is Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The prospect of eliminating an ancient and dreaded killer has a great appeal, Eliminating rabies is a pro-poor strategy and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals that we leave no one behind. We know what to do: eliminate rabies at source."

The framework also seeks to provide wider access to affordable human vaccines and the medicines that neutralize the rabies virus before symptoms occur.

It was launched by WHO together with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Alliance for the Control of Rabies (GARC).

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’07″

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