Every year, on 28 September, World Rabies Day is celebrated to raise awareness about rabies prevention. You have probably heard about this disease before from a newspaper article or the TV, but do you really know what rabies is and how to prevent this disease from taking 59 000 lives annually (WHO, 2017)?
Rabies is a viral disease that causes a brain inflammation and could affect all warm-blooded species, including humans. The disease is transmitted when an animal bites or scratches another animal or human. Symptoms include fever, excessive salivation, paralysis, fear of water, confusion and more. Once they appear, however, the result is nearly always fatal.
Unfortunately, about 40% of deaths concern children under the age of 15 and most rabies infection cases occur in Africa and Asia. However, the disease is still present on all continents except Antarctica, meaning that it concerns all of us.
In the event of a bite, the first thing one needs to do is thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water for a minimum of 15 minutes and immediately seek for medical advice. If such actions are taken immediately, the potential victim’s life can be saved.
Most rabies cases occur due to dog bites, and this is exactly why the right approach to controlling the stray dogs population and vaccinating dogs is essential to ensure a safe and healthy community of both people and animals. Vaccinating all dogs means that rabies will be prevented from spreading to other animals and from being passed to humans. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy to preventing rabies in people. Together with vaccinations, a policy like CNVR, ensuring that dogs are sterilized is the key to achieving a society free of rabies and stray dogs at the same time, and this is supported by real facts. Bangladesh has seen a 50% decrease in human rabies deaths between 2010 and 2013 after implementing a cost-effective rabies elimination programme. The Netherlands has been free of stray animals for years now, eliminating the problem at its root with a long-lasting solution.
It is therefore essential, as a prevention policy, to implement educational programmes aimed at informing the community on the right way to understand animal behavior and on how to prevent rabies even in the event of a bite. Raising awareness is always one of the key players in any prevention programme and it helps raising a responsible and informed community.
With this article, OIPA shows its support for World Rabies Day and wants to stress the importance of knowledge over of ignorance, of reason over impulse and show that rabies is, first of all, a preventable disease. Stay informed and spread the word, the right reaction to a potentially rabid animal’s bite could save a life.