With World Rabies Day 2014 only a few days away, the Directors and Senior Animal Health Officers of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the African representations of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) today are making a joint appeal to Chief Veterinary Officers of the 54 member states in Africa to mobilise for the fight against rabies, one of the most deadly zoonotic diseases in Africa.
Rabies is a disease of dogs and other mammals, which when transmitted to man through bites and other routes, leads to an excruciatingly painful condition, almost always followed by death. Rabies especially affects children in developing countries, with Africa being the worst hit. In countries where people are still dying from the disease, dogs are the main vectors of the rabies virus, the causative agent. In spite of the availability of safe and effective vaccines against rabies and successful measures for controlling the disease, the incidence of rabies has been increasing throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.
World Rabies Day is being facilitated by the international charity, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, and the global series of events will culminate on September 28 – World Rabies Day. This year’s theme is ’Together against Rabies’. Working together helps safeguard people and animals against rabies.
“Rabies though fatal, is preventable and can be defeated. By standing ‘Together Against Rabies’, we are not only helping our communities here in Africa, but we are also safeguarding human beings around the world. To eliminate this disease, Veterinary Services of AU member states must be in the front line of the battle and ensure a sustained vaccination and promotion of responsible ownership of dogs. I am, therefore, calling for a concerted effort in controlling this very important and widely-distributed zoonosis across the continent”, says Professor Ahmed El Sawalhy, Director of AU-IBAR, who also strongly advocates for joining hands with public health authorities in tackling the disease.
Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant-Director General and Regional Representative for Africa points out: “more than 95% of human and livestock cases are due to bites by infected dogs. It is therefore unacceptable in these modern days that so many people, most of them children, still die from this disease when the vaccination of dogs is a simple and cost-effective way of controlling rabies in dogs and protecting our children and our livestock”.
The aim of World Rabies Day’s theme, ‘Together Against Rabies’, is to bring all stakeholders together to work towards the common goal of eliminating the disease. According to Professor Louis Nel, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, “We can save the lives of tens of thousands of people who die every year from rabies by raising awareness and taking the correct preventive measures. Rabies is a global problem that will only be solved if we all stand ‘Together Against Rabies’.”
Dr. Yacouba Samaké, OIE Regional Representative for Africa echoes this appeal in stating that: “veterinary services, together with public health services in Africa, play a crucial role in the eradication of this dreadful disease. Every one of the 69,000 annual casualties could have been avoided. This is roughly one person every seven minutes. I would like to see this disease eradicated from the continent for the sake of future generations.”
Prof. Dr. Ahmed El-Sawalhy Mr. Bukar Tijani Dr. Yacouba Samaké
Director FAO Regional Representative OIE Regional Representative
AU-IBAR for Africa for Africa
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Around 70,000 people die from rabies annually, with over 99% of these deaths occurring in Africa and Asia, as a result of being bitten by an infected dog. Up to 60% of all dog bites and rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age.
Dogs are major victims of the disease as well, with up to 20 million killed every year as a result of mass culling through misguided attempts to curb the disease.
Rabies is 99.9% fatal, but it is also 100% preventable. Eliminating the disease by vaccinating dogs protects them and stops transmission to people. But despite the existence of effective, relatively low-cost solutions to control animal rabies, people and animals are still dying because of rabies.
About World Rabies Day
World Rabies Day, held on September 28 every year, was initiated by GARC in 2007 to create a global opportunity for people to unite in rabies prevention. Since then, it has grown year by year, with hundreds of thousands of people organizing and participating in local, regional and national events, on or around September 28 – and at other times of the year too. Learn more at : http://rabiesalliance.org/world-rabies-day/
About Global Alliance for Rabies Control
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) is a leading non-profit organization that works with governments, veterinary, public health and educational experts and communities to facilitate policy change and develop models to eliminate canine rabies in areas hardest hit by the disease. GARC’s mission is to eliminate human deaths from rabies and relieve the burden of rabies in animal populations, especially dogs. For more information about rabies and GARC’s work , visit http://rabiesalliance.org