AGA IN ACTION
Rabies: a looming threat to public health
Rabies is an acute and fatal zoonotic viral disease that infects domestic and wild animals and is transmissible to humans. Unvaccinated dogs can be infected with the rabies virus. Most humans become infected with rabies through bites from infected dogs. Especially children become victims due to their frequent contact with dogs and often their mothers not having the right knowledge on what needs to be said and done to prevent their children to contract this disease. Once rabies symptoms appear, it is almost certainly fatal. Although rabies is 100% preventable, it is still found in over 150 countries worldwide, particularly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, and causes deaths of over 55,000 people every year.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is contributing to rabies control efforts by raising awareness about the disease in selected African countries, supporting animal health clubs in schools in Sierra Leone, and contributing to partnerships and alliances aimed at preventing and controlling rabies such as the Partnership for Rabies Prevention and the Alliance for Rabies Control.
The veterinary and medical professions play important roles in preventing and controlling the disease in animal and human populations. Actions to prevent and control rabies include, among many others, raise awareness about rabies and strengthen rabies surveillance and diagnostic capacities, promote dog bite reporting and immediate wound washing, rapid post-exposure prophylaxis, and overall dog vaccination and dog population management, coupled with the promotion of responsible dog-ownership.
Rabies prevention and control is a public good, therefore, policymakers at national and international levels need to be aware of the multidimensional impacts of this disease and the options available for its prevention and control. World Rabies Day plays an important role in advocating for the prevention and control of this disease among leaders and policymakers; especially in countries where rabies is still neglected despite the severe impact it has on human health and wellbeing.