World Rabies Day observed with theme Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate.

Sep 28, 2016 08:08 IST

World Rabies Day 28 September: World Rabies Day

World Rabies Day was observed on 28 September 2016. The theme for World Rabies Day is Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate. The day is annually celebrated to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in defeating the disease.

The theme of the day emphasises on the two crucial actions that communities can do to prevent rabies. It also reflects the global target to eliminate all human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

In addition, 28 September also marks the anniversary of Louis Pasteur's death, the French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.

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Today, safe and efficacious animal and human vaccines are among the important tools that exist to eliminate human deaths from rabies while awareness is the key driver for success of communities to engage in effective rabies prevention.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans), caused by the rabies virus, of the Lyssavirus genus, within the family Rhabdoviridae. Domestic dogs are the most common reservoir of the virus, with more than 95% of human deaths caused by dog-mediated rabies.

The virus is transmitted in the saliva of rabid animals and generally enters the body via infiltration of virus-laden saliva from a rabid animal into a wound (e.g. scratches), or by direct exposure of mucosal surfaces to saliva from an infected animal (e.g. bites). The virus cannot infiltrate intact skin.

Once the virus reaches the brain, it further replicates, resulting in presentation of clinical signs from the patient. There are two clinical manifestations of rabies – furious (classical or encephalitic) and paralytic. Furious rabies is most common form of human rabies, accounting for approximately 80% of cases.

With the exception of Antarctica, rabies is endemic on all continents. Of the tens of thousands of deaths occurring annually due to rabies, 95% of cases are reported in Asia and Africa.

Rabies is a 100% vaccine-preventable disease. Countries embarking on rabies elimination programmes have successfully experienced marked reductions, often progressing to the elimination of rabies. Elimination programs often revolve around mass dog vaccination campaigns, where at least 70% of the dog population should be covered in order to break the cycle of transmission in dogs, and to humans.

Distribution of the disease

Human rabies is present in 150 countries and territories and on all continents, except for Antarctica. Globally, estimates indicate that human mortality (due to endemic canine-mediated rabies) is highest in Asia, with the highest incidence and deaths reported in India. This is closely followed by Africa. However estimates of burden have always been uncertain due to the absence of reliable data.

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