Rabies is one of the most lethal viruses on earth, with almost 60,000 people dying of this terrible disease every year. Almost half of these deaths are children, mostly in Africa and Asia. However, rabies is preventable and there is a global goal of achieving zero human dog-mediated rabies deaths by 2030.
Asia and Africa are the main regions affected by rabies in dogs, whilst wildlife may be affected in many parts of the world. Find out where the latest reported outbreaks are with this map.
Rabies is caused by the rabies virus, which is a type of lyssavirus. This Genus also contains a range of viruses closely related to the rabies virus, for example the European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) 1.
The rabies virus is transmitted in saliva, and almost 100% of deaths in humans are due to transmission from dogs when people are bitten. There are also wildlife cycles of rabies, such as those in North America sustained by raccoons, skunks and foxes, and those in South America involving vampire bats.
Rabies is preventable and the vaccination of dogs using a high quality vaccine is central to eliminating canine-mediated human deaths from rabies. Not only does this significantly improve human health, it is also financially beneficial to the country because fewer doses of the costly post bite preventative treatment (Post Exposure Prophylaxis, PEP) are required for people exposed to rabies.
Clinical signs in dogs with rabies include aggression/unusual behaviour, excessive salivation, and choking/gagging. In animals and humans the disease is 100% fatal once clinical signs/symptoms occur. As such rabies has one of the highest mortality rates of any disease. This Mission Rabies training video gives a detailed explanation of the clinical signs to watch for.
Prevention is the key to controlling and eliminating rabies, with dog vaccination the main tool. People that are bitten by a dog should take appropriate action to wash and clean the wound and seek medical attention.
The disease is 100% preventable. In recent decades countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have made strides towards rabies elimination, and in November 2019, Mexico proved that human canine-mediated deaths can be eliminated when it became the first country in the world to obtain WHO validation for no human rabies deaths. Mexico achieved this by having a national rabies strategy based on mass dog vaccination, raising public awareness, and post-exposure prophylaxis. The cooperation of human and animal health sectors is important in achieving rabies elimination, and rabies is a good example of how a One Health approach can be very effective.