Today, 28 September 2023, marks World Rabies Day, a pivotal global health observance initiated in 2007 to bolster awareness around the world’s most fatal infectious disease.
This day beckons a collective reflection on the lingering impact of rabies, mainly focusing on communities across Asia, where the ailment remains significantly prevalent.
The Deadly Toll
Although preventable, rabies claims nearly 60,000 lives globally yearly, showcasing an urgent need for intensified control and prevention measures. Rabies in dogs, a common source of human rabies infection, is notably widespread in various Asian countries, contributing significantly to international fatality rates.
Focusing on Prevention
To counter this, keeping pets up to date on their vaccinations emerges as a cornerstone of safeguarding communities. For families travelling abroad, being mindful of potential interactions with animals in countries with prevalent rabies is essential. This will ensure safety through informed decision-making and necessary precautions.
United Against Rabies
Major health organisations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have converged their efforts. The ambitious goal is to eradicate rabies deaths induced by dogs by 2030, signalling a united front in this global health battle.
One Health for All
This year’s theme, ‘All for 1 – One Health for All’, underscores the universality of health. It sheds light on the role of rabies control programmes as exemplars in operationalising One Health, establishing robust systems and fostering trust to tackle many zoonotic diseases, including those with pandemic potential.
Equitable Access and Global Goals
Ensuring underprivileged communities have equitable access to health services and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is not merely a life-saving endeavour but also a means to fortify national health systems. With the adoption of the Zero by 30: Global Strategic Plan, the world unites under a shared objective: eliminating dog-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030.
The global community holds the power to break the cycle of one of the oldest known diseases. Armed with vaccines, medicines, and cutting-edge technologies, rabies elimination is within reach. Additionally, by leaving no one behind and fostering unity, significant strides towards this goal can be made.
Strengthening Overall Health Systems
The theme further emphasises the essence of equality and the imperative to bolster overall health systems. The vision is clear: make One Health accessible to everyone, using rabies as a prime example. By amalgamating efforts across sectors, involving communities, and sustaining dog vaccination, the goal of eradicating this disease becomes increasingly attainable.
Joining Forces for a Rabies-Free Future
Across Asia, efforts are being intensified to combat rabies. Communities, healthcare providers, and organisations are rallying together, registering and following events aimed at raising awareness and fostering preventative measures. The collaboration and unity demonstrated indicate a robust and collective will to achieve a rabies-free future.
On this World Rabies Day, let us reflect on the progress made and the journey ahead. The fight against rabies is far from over. However, it can be tackled with unwavering commitment, collaboration, and utilisation of available resources. Therefore, a world without rabies is not just a dream but a foreseeable reality.