28 September 2020, Rome/Paris/Geneva – A new United Against Rabies Forum aims to accelerate progress towards the elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. The disease continues to kill one person every nine minutes – almost half of them children.
The Forum, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) – the global agencies responsible for human health, animal health and food and agriculture – will bring together partners across government institutions, human and animal and environmental health sectors, the private sector, civil society as well as research and academia. It aims to increase understanding of what policy and research work is required and improve coordination (including of resource mobilization) and information sharing between partners.
A new United Against Rabies Forum aims to accelerate progress towards the elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. The disease continues to kill one person every nine minutes – almost half of them children.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:
“We can only eliminate rabies in people if we do a better job of controlling it in dogs, and if we radically improve access to treatment and care – especially among the poor and marginalized groups who suffer the most from this horrible disease.”
FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu said:
“While the coronavirus pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to us all, we can and must turn disadvantage to advantage. We have an opportunity now to strengthen One Health collaboration and regional cooperation, particularly to improve animal health systems and surveillance. Collaborating on rabies is an excellent way to put those ideas into practice.”
OIE Director-General, Monique Eloit stressed the need for collaborative efforts against rabies:
“This is a disease we know how to beat, but there is no single solution. We have to work together, across human and animal health sectors and with affected communities. If we do, elimination is possible, and in the process, we will also be building stronger systems for the detection and control of other diseases.”
FAO, OIE and WHO are committed to operationalization of ‘One Health’, which promotes a policy approach that connects human, animal and environmental health interventions. In the case of rabies, this means coordinated investment in mass dog vaccination as a public health initiative alongside, improved surveillance and data collection as well as community awareness raising and ensuring access to affordable rabies treatment for humans (post exposure prophylaxis or PEP).
Up to 99 per cent of rabies cases in humans are caused by dog bites, and rabies control is seen as a ‘model’ disease for improving zoonotic disease control more broadly. However, investment in dog vaccination, rabies monitoring and surveillance systems remains low in most countries where rabies occurs.
Scientific research and field evidence show that mass dog vaccination campaigns that cover 70 per cent of the at-risk dog population can confer herd immunity against rabies and are the only real way to interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans. This can sharply reduce human rabies deaths as a result.