Earlier this year, BGTHA announced its partnership of End Rabies Now, an awareness campaign that pushes for greater political commitment to rabies prevention from the international community. As travel health professionals, you have particular insight into the fact that rabies is a very real threat in some parts of the world. But few people in Europe and the United States, where the canine rabies has largely been eliminated, are aware that this ancient disease is not yet history.
Indeed rabies causes immense suffering in Africa and Asia, where over 95% of the 59,000 annual rabies deaths occur. It is a neglected disease of poverty with stark statistics: 99.9% fatal but 100% preventable with modern vaccines. Nobody should die of rabies.
And ending canine rabies will do more than save human lives, it will also save countless animal lives, improve animal welfare and reduce the crippling financial burden that rabies post-exposure prophylaxis places on those that can least afford it.
Of course, there are organisations all over the world working to prevent rabies in their communities but until 10 years ago most initiatives worked in isolation, unaware of their role in the bigger picture. In 2007 the Global Alliance for Rabies Control launched the first World Rabies Day. Since then this neutral platform has registered 1000s of events which have reached millions of people and vaccinated 100,000s of animals. The platform provides global visibility to efforts to prevent rabies to inspire everyone – from affected communities to international policy makers – to push forward towards elimination.
As the 10th World Rabies Day, September 28, approaches there is a growing sense of optimism that this disease will be – as it should be – consigned to the history books by 2030. But in a world of competing health priorities, we need to keep pushing. As BGTHA members, please help make your awareness of the problem count by signing the pledge on the End Rabies Now website. Adding your voice shows that you believe rabies should be a thing of the past and encourages policy makers to make provision to fund rabies prevention around the world.