Rabies around the World

Each year, rabies causes approximately 59,000 deaths worldwide. Despite evidence that control of dog rabies through animal vaccination programs and elimination of stray dogs can reduce the incidence of human rabies, dog rabies remains common in many countries and exposure to rabid dogs is still the cause of over 90% of human exposures to rabies and of 99% of human rabies deaths worldwide.

Because vaccines to prevent human rabies have been available for more than 100 years, most deaths from rabies occur in countries with inadequate public health resources and limited access to preventive treatment. These countries also have few diagnostic facilities and almost no rabies surveillance.

It is difficult, however, to estimate the total global burden of rabies by using only human mortality data. Rabies is not, in the natural sense, actually a disease of humans. Rather, it is a disease found in wild and domestic animals that can cause cases in humans. Therefore, a more accurate projection of the impact of rabies should include an estimate of the impact on animal populations – particularly domestic animals – and the expense involved in preventing transmission of rabies from animals to humans.

While effective, the cost of animal vaccination programs and programs to eliminate stray dogs often prohibits their full implementation in much of the developing world. In even the most prosperous countries, the cost of an effective dog rabies control program is a drain on public health resources. For example, the estimated annual expenditure for rabies prevention in the United States is over US$300 million, most of which is spent on dog vaccinations.

Scientists have shown that once 70% of dogs are vaccinated, rabies can be successfully controlled in an area and human deaths can be prevented. However, even once a sufficient level of dog vaccination is reached, rabies control efforts must remain constant and robust. An annual turnover of approximately 25% in the dog population necessitates revaccination of millions of animals each year, and reintroduction of rabies through transport of infected animals from outside a controlled area is always a possibility should control programs lapse.

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While rabies is a 100% preventable disease, thousands of people die from the disease around the world each year. CDC provides assistance to many countries affected by rabies to help set up programs to control, track and prevent this deadly disease. https://youtu.be/WhzXT7dB2rMexternal icon