Rabies could potentially be eliminated with mass dog vaccinations

Earlier this week, rabies experts revealed a blueprint for potentially eliminating the malignant disease, which is caused by bites from rapid dogs the vast majority of the time and results in the deaths of tens of thousands of people across the globe every year. The plan would involve a series of mass dog vaccinations in certain regions.

The routine vaccination of pet dogs has made the viral disease rare in developed nations, but it still kills around 69,000 people across the globe every year, mostly in impoverished and rural parts of Asia and Africa. India alone is home to around one third of all rabies-related deaths.

Vaccines for both humans and dogs have existed for quite some time, but rabies has persisted due to the lack of a concentrated effort to wipe it out. The international team of experts has proposed what they call a cost-effective and achievable strategy for ending the spread of the viral disease through dogs.

Successful efforts in Latin America, as well as pilot projects in Africa and Southeast Asia, have shown that mass dog vaccination programs can prevent humans from being infected by rabies in low-income nations, as well as more wealthy ones. The team noted that vaccinating around 70% of dogs in a given region is the threshold.

“There is now convincing evidence that vaccination of dogs would eliminate greater than 98 percent 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.

Read more about the story at The Huffington Post.

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