Thursday 28th September is designated as International Rabies Day on the initiative of the International Alliance against Rabies and supported by the World Health Organisation. Rabies does not occur inAustralia,New Zealand, PNG or theSouthPacificIslands and with efficient and strict quarantine regulations this should be the case indefinitely; so why should we mark this day? First of all it is a major international problem with upwards of 55,000 deaths each year. Secondly it is an ever-present potential threat to travellers overseas.
Thirdly it is preventable.
Efficient animal and human vaccines are available. It should be possible to eliminate the disease from the world entirely but given its presence in wild animals such as bats, raccoons and foxes this may be too much to expect . Nevertheless we can aim to reduce its incidence enormously and thus save thousands of lives. Animal vaccination with oral vaccine is part of the program of many governments but needs education, public co-operation in bringing domestic animals to the vet, and major organisation in laying baits for wild animals. Human vaccination is efficient but expensive. Finance is a constant problem.
For travellers rabies vaccination should always be considered and individuals need to discuss the realistic risks of the journey with a health professional given the relatively high cost of the vaccination course.
For further information and an opportunity to make a donation online please see