World Rabies Day: raising awareness

28 September 2011 is World Rabies Day

September 28, 2011 marks the fifth World Rabies Day.  This annual campaign, led by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, brings the world together to raise awareness and understanding about the importance of rabies prevention.

Rabies remains one of the most serious viral zoonoses presently encountered worldwide.  Despite being 100 per cent preventable, it is estimated that 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year, approximately one person every ten minutes: half are children under the age of 15.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is proud to support World Rabies Day by once again urging UK veterinary surgeons to raise their staff and clients’ awareness of the implications of rabies when they travel abroad.  The BVA Overseas Group has produced some simple advice on reducing the risk of contracting the disease, which gives guidance on vaccination and wound cleansing.

Karen Reed, chair of the BVA Overseas Group, commented:

“Pre-exposure vaccination should be considered for those travellers at particular risk and should be mandatory for all veterinary professionals and students who are planning to work with animals in an affected country.

“Remember that a lick on broken skin or mucous membranes or a scratch is as dangerous as a deep bite from an infected animal.

“Thorough wound cleansing along with post-exposure immunisation is crucially important.”

Despite becoming a forgotten disease in western Europe many UK vets are playing a part in helping to eliminate canine rabies.  As well as those working overseas who tackle the disease on a daily basis, there are vets and virologists based in the UK who are making a considerable contribution towards alleviating the burden of rabies.

Carl Padgett, President of the BVA added:

“I am particularly proud that vets and researchers at the UK’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) are involved in this ongoing global fight against rabies.  As a World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centre for rabies, an OIE Reference Laboratory, and also as a Partner for Rabies Control, the AHVLA provides scientific and technical expertise.

“I also look forward to the completion of the University of Glasgow’s study to re-assess the global burden of rabies which will provide new and valuable data in the fight against rabies.

“In this World Veterinary Year when we witnessed the remarkable achievement of the eradication of rinderpest we are delighted to support World Rabies Day and hope that through our collective efforts we can make strides towards the elimination of another dreaded disease – rabies.”

Since its inception 2007, World Rabies Day has grown and is now recognised every year in over 130 countries, educating an estimated 150 million people and vaccinating 4.6 million dogs worldwide.  The veterinary profession plays an important role in protecting domestic animals and the general public from rabies.


Further Information

1. The BVA Overseas Group’s guidance  

2. World Rabies Day is promoted by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. It aims to prevent human rabies deaths and to alleviate the burden of rabies in animal species.

3. Download WRD logos 

4. The AHVLA is involved in a WHO co-ordinated, Gates Foundation funded pilot programme to eliminate canine rabies in three candidate territories where the disease is endemic (the KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa, the south-eastern part of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Visayas archipelago in the Philippines). The programme aims to demonstrate that human rabies can be prevented through the control of rabies in dogs.  The absence of reported human rabies cases over a 12-month period is highly significant for KwaZuluNatal.  

5. A team of rabies researchers from AHVLA has raised over £1000 for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control by cycling 200 miles from the Institut Pasteur, Paris to the AHVLA’s laboratories at Weybridge, Surrey in August.  Further contributions can be made at

6. The Blueprint for Rabies Prevention and Control brings together information on rabies prevention from global rabies experts.

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