Rabies: the growing and neglected killer

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Dogs are the main carriers of rabies which kills more than 60 000 people annually, most of them children. Photo: WHO/Daniel Stewart

Amid recent health scares over diseases such as Ebola and Zika, chances are that you perhaps haven't given much thought to another deadly killer: rabies.

For World Rabies Day, which falls on September 28, the UN and partner organisations want more countries to treat the disease as a priority.

This year, the special day's motto is: "Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate."

Daniel Johnson has more.

Every year, rabies kills an estimated 60,000 people, mainly in rural Asia and Africa, and the threat is growing.

And yet this horrible, painful viral infection is entirely preventable, with vaccines that have been available for more than a century.

Now, UN agencies and partners are calling for a rethink on how to protect communities from catching it in the first place.

The key is to vaccinate stray and domestic dogs, as they're responsible for spreading almost all cases of rabies.

But Silvano Sofia from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that this is easier said than done:

"Rabies elimination is feasible by vaccinating dogs…in recent years, the focus was especially on livestock diseases, because dogs don't have the same economic and social value as goats and other agricultural animals. So we really need to put the priority on this."

The aim of World Rabies Day is to raise awareness about the disease and take action that will see it eliminated by 2030.

This will require addressing the many factors that help rabies spread, such as poor food waste management and insufficient disaster preparedness in communities.

It's an appeal that's united FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Alliance For Rabies Control (GARC) and the World Organization For Animal Health (OIE).

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1’17″


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