Rabies Prevention in Developing Countries

Globally 55,000 people die from rabies each year.  Nearly all of which are due to bites from rabid dogs in countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Children are frequently most at risk for rabies due to their higher risk of being bitten by dogs and receiving multiple severe bites when bitten. Rabies infection invariably progresses to death unless the infected person receives prompt medical attention and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Dog rabies has been controlled or eliminated in most of the developed world and, subsequently, human rabies cases are rare.  However, in developing counties, the disease is a prominent public health concern.  Stray dog populations are a major source of rabies exposure. A lack of public awareness about rabies and responsible pet ownership, high expense of rabies PEP, and poor access to medical care are just a few reasons why so many people die every year from rabies.

How can we prevent rabies?

Primary prevention: avoiding exposure

One of the most important steps in preventing rabies is educating those at risk about responsible pet ownership and how to avoid exposure to rabies. Animal vaccination clinics and community awareness are critical to tackle this disease and improve human and animal health around the world.  Well implemented prevention programs have been the only successful efforts to reduce and eliminate rabies from domestic dog populations, which subsequently has been shown to nearly eliminate human cases of rabies. 

Secondary prevention: stopping infection in its tracks

If a person is bitten by a rabid animal, it is still possible to prevent rabies if the individual quickly receives appropriate medical treatment.  The treatment - known as rabies postexposure prophylaxis, or PEP - consists of immediately washing bite wounds, receiving rabies immune globulin (pre-formed antibodies that begin to immediately neutralize rabies virus), and getting a series of vaccine doses. If received appropriately and shortly after exposure, PEP is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing rabies from developing.  However, even though PEP has been around since the time of Louis Pasteur, and improved since then, it remains unavailable or unaffordable in developing countries where people are most at risk.

How can you help CDC?

Rabies vaccination clinic in philippines

The CDC rabies program collaborates in rabies prevention projects around the world, providing assistance through community education, diagnostic training and capacity building. 

Donations to the program made through the CDC Foundation are used to purchase animal rabies vaccines used for vaccination clinics held in developing countries where dog rabies represents a significant threat to human health.  Donations are also used to purchase post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccinations.  People who contract rabies often can't afford or access treatment... or must choose which of their multiple exposed children will receive the one dose of vaccine the family can afford.

Currently the CDC rabies program is assisting in rabies prevention programs in the Philippines and Central Africa.  Your gift of as little as $10 can vaccinate 10 dogs, ensuring they cannot transmit rabies; buy the first dose of rabies vaccine to protect an exposed child; or educate 150 children about protecting themselves against rabies.

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