Mass vaccinations, One Health bolsters fight against rabies

By 2030, WHO aims to reach zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies

Photo courtesy Mission Rabies
Photo courtesy Mission Rabies

Protecting animals and humans from a deadly, preventable disease is the focus of new global campaign.

In recognition of World Rabies Day (Sept. 28), Merck Animal Health, in partnership with Mission Rabies and Rabies Free Africa, has launched #ForThemForUs, a social media message promoting the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) goal to reach zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

To hit this target, the groups say collaboration must continue among human, animal, and environmental health organizations to advance sustainable rabies prevention efforts, including annual mass vaccination.

Through a One Health approach, Merck says, local, regional, national, and global animal health advocates play a critical role in addressing the public health threat, working together to keep both dogs and humans healthy.

“From scientific research to actual vaccination programs, we are refining the tools we need to prevent rabies,” says Rabies Free Africa’s director, Felix Lankester, DVM, Ph.D. “While doing so, we must continue to work together with local governments and health-care organizations supporting local communities as they continue rabies prevention where it is most needed. This will help us achieve our 2030 rabies elimination goal.”

While the global canine population is estimated to be 900 million, the majority of these animals (75 to 85 per cent) are not household pets, Merck reports. To prevent rabies transmission in rabies-endemic areas, at least 70 per cent of the dogs in these regions need to be protected through annual mass vaccination, the company says.

Approximately 59,000 people die from rabies each year, with more than 99 per cent of cases contracted from a dog bite. This is due, in part, to low rates of canine vaccination in rabies-endemic areas, as well as a lack of awareness about the disease, Merck says.

“Many of us love and rely on our dogs, who in many cases are not only much-loved family members, but also hard-working companions,” says Mission Rabies’ founder, Luke Gamble, B.VSc., DVM&S, FRCVS. “On this World Rabies Day, we want to recognize the invaluable role dogs play in our lives. When we protect our dogs from rabies, we are also protecting ourselves from this deadly disease.”

Veterinarians, dog owners, and advocates are invited to share photos and videos of their work in keeping dogs rabies-free using the hashtag, #ForThemForUs.

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