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End Rabies by Vaccinating Dogs

Update Date: Sep 26, 2014 10:09 AM EDT

Rabies is an extremely fatal viral infection that is usually transmitted via a bite from an infected animal. Even though rabies is no longer a major health concern in developed nations, the infection is still a huge problem for dogs and humans in other countries where rabies kills 69,000 people each year, a new report estimated. In order to stop rabies completely, the experts stated that the majority of the dogs within one area must get vaccinated.

"There is now convincing evidence that vaccination of dogs would eliminate greater than 98 percent of the rabies health burden globally," said Guy Palmer, director of Washington State University's Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health reported by FOX News. "Rabies is an ancient plague. Descriptions of human suffering and death can be seen since the earliest times of recorded history. Even today, rabies is the most consistently fatal infectious disease of humans."

The experts stated that the majority of the rabies cases occur in poor parts of Africa and Asia. Roughly one-third of the yearly cases occur in India. In addition, about 40 percent of the victims are children. In order to reduce these numbers, the experts drafted a vaccination plan that could dramatically reduce the total number of cases.

The experts stated that the threshold for preventing rabies cases is a vaccination rate of at least 70 percent of the dogs within a given area. The experts plan on focusing on areas where rabies is endemic. They will start vaccinating within small and middle-sized areas. Once the majority of those dogs are vaccinated, the area will be expanded slowly in order to reach more dogs. The idea is that eventually, the dimensions of these zones will increase and overlap each other, resulting in widespread vaccination. Currently, the mass dog vaccination programs that certain countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia have adopted have been successful so far.

"We know how and we have the ammunition to do it," Felix Lankester, director of the Serengeti Health Initiative that conducts dog vaccination campaigns in rural villages around Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, said. "I am optimistic that it can be done. Whether the necessary political will and funding will be harnessed is another matter."

Lankester estimated that the cost of this kind of project would reach hundreds of millions of dollars and even possibly billions. The project would also need support from many different kinds of organizations, governments and agencies.

The report, "Implementing Pasteur's vision for rabies elimination," was published in Science.

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