Veterinary health community marks World Rabies Day Sept. 28

Events will be held worldwide and across the United States.
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Sep 27, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

World Rabies Day is Sept. 28 and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control has themed the observance “Rabies: Understand it to defeat it.” The alliance’s goal is to educate people living with the risk of rabies about how it’s transmitted, how to prevent exposure and what to do if bitten or scratched by a rabid animal.

According to the alliance, rabies remains widespread throughout much of the developing world, killing tens of thousands of people each year. More than 95 percent of human rabies deaths occur in Africa and Asia as a result of a bite from an infected dog, and up to 60 percent of all dog bites and rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age. Comparitively, few deaths resulted from the 6,000-plus animal rabies cases reported in the United States in 2012, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The Global Alliance for Rabies Control says that although rabies hits poorer parts of the world the hardest, the virus affects everyone with its global economic impact of $124 billion. Most of that financial cost comes from the loss of human life, including the loss of victims’ future earnings. The direct and indirect cost of vaccination is the next-highest figure.

However, according to calculations by the Partners for Rabies Prevention (an informal group of stakeholders convened by the alliance), canine rabies could be eliminated worldwide for as little as $6 to $8 billion. “This suggests that every dollar spent could generate a saving of $15 and $20 annually,” the alliance says in a release.

Events will be taking place around the world to mark World Rabies Day. For example, the faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Al Baath University in Syria will be handing out leaflets to children in refugee camps, and there will be a drawing and essay competition for school children in Kolkata, India.

To observe the day here in the U.S., CATalyst Council and other organizations are encouraging pet owners to take their animals to the veterinarian to ensure they’re up to date on rabies vaccines. Many veterinarians are offering free or low-cost vaccinations. “Rabies is almost always 100 percent fatal. Even if your cat is indoors-only, even if you live in the city and even if you think your home is secure from outside critters, cats need to be vaccinated against this deadly disease,” says Jane Brunt, DVM, CATalyst’s executive director, in a release. “This is not just an animal issue; it’s a public health issue that you can help control.”

Here are some of the World Rabies Day lectures and events:

> Rabies symposium. Merial and the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine will host their sixth annual Rabies Symposium fSept. 28 on the MSU campus. The symposium is titled “Protecting Animals, People and Our Future” and will feature lectures from top experts in rabies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control and state and local authorities. The event will include interactive breakout sessions for attendees to discuss rabies cases and management from the veterinary, public health and human health perspectives. For more information, go to merialrabiessymposium.eventbrite.com.

> Global impact lecture. The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Public and Global Health Interest Group hosted Jim Powell from the Wisconsin State Hygiene Lab Sept. 26 to discuss the global impact of rabies. For additional information, e-mail mkarendt@wisc.edu.

> Lecture and free vaccine clinic. The Newport Center Animal Hospital of Newport Beach, Calif., is hosting a lecture on rabies virus and disease, prevalence in the local area and prevention techniques at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Back Bay Muth Interpretive Center in Costa Mesa, Calif. A free vaccine clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 28. For more information, call 949-644-5460.

For more information on World Rabies Day or to register for an event, go to rabiesalliance.org.