On September 28th, the world will raise awareness and help prevent the spread of rabies through various events being held worldwide by different organizations. Some will be educational lectures and presentations while others will be fundraisers and low cost or free rabies vaccines clinics set up in cities around the globe. The annual event is in its fourth year and led by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The aim is to prevent human rabies-related deaths and to educate and alleviate the spread of it from animal to animal.
Rabies accounts for about 55,000 deaths a year in humans and is one of the most deadly but yet most preventable disease in the world. Most human rabies death occur in Africa and Asia and about 30 to 50% of these deaths occur in children under 15 who were bitten by an infected animal. All of these deaths could be prevented with proper medical care and proper control and administration of the vaccine to the dog population. It sounds simple but on comparison to other problems that these regions face, preventing rabies is a low-priority.
However, by increasing the awareness around the world the Global Alliance for Rabies Control hopes to be able to help and prevent more deaths in humans and animals, which in turn would improve the financial stability in some regions and increase the longevity of the people living there. Rabies is a significant cause of death of livestock in some countries and that impacts the economy.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affect the brain in warm-blooded animals. It is transmitted from animal to animal, typically through a bite and is fatal if not treated. The virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves and incubates for a few months in humans. Once the virus has reached the central nervous system, the infection is effectively untreatable and fatal.
What are the symptoms of rabies?
Early symptoms are often malaise, fever, headaches, numbing and tingling around the area of the bite, and some pain. As the virus progresses, there may be violent spasms, uncontrolled mood swings, depression, and extreme lethargy, eventually leading to coma.
The period between the bite and the first signs of flu-like symptoms is about 2 to 12 weeks but can take as long as 2 years. This depends on the distance the virus needs to travel to the brain. During the later stages large quantities of saliva and tears are common during this stage. At this later stage, the ability is speak or swallow is severely disabled and most people and animals die from respiratory insufficiency.
In the U.S. the vaccination against rabies that is required of pet owners has virtually eliminated the disease to humans. Any recorded rabies-related deaths to humans were from bat bites and that is only 1 to 2 deaths a year. Some other countries do not have rabies present anymore and this is why when animals are transported from one country to another, there are waiting periods and quarantine periods to ensure that the disease is not reintroduced into the country.
If you would like see all the events being planned around the world for World Rabies Day, you can visit their site: http://www.worldrabiesday.org.