UN launches new framework to eliminate rabies
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations has launched a new framework for the elimination of rabies that involves ensuring the availability of human vaccines and treatment and mass dog vaccination.

The framework calls for making human vaccines and antibodies affordable, offering prompt treatment and mass dog vaccination to tackle the viral disease at its source.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease almost always fatal following the onset of clinical signs.

Rabies is 100 percent preventable through vaccination and timely immunization after exposure, but access to post-bite treatment is expensive and not affordable in many Asian and African countries, said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“If we follow this more comprehensive approach, we can consign rabies to the history books,” she added.

The framework was launched recently by WHO, World Organization for Animal Health, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Alliance for the Control of Rabies.

The launching came as WHO hosted in Geneva, Switzerland an international conference of experts, donors and veterinary and public health officials who will adopt the plan of action expected to deliver prompt post-exposure prophylaxis for all in rabies-endemic areas, as well as a framework for scaling up sustained large-scale dog vaccination.

“The first event of its kind, the conference will be instrumental in securing the required support to advance the goal of global elimination of rabies by 2030,” the target year of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN this year.

“Tens of thousands of people die from rabies each year and, worldwide, four out of every 10 people bitten by suspected rabid dogs are children under the age of 15. One person dies every 10 minutes, with the greatest burden in Asia and Africa,” WHO said.

“The cost of human vaccines to protect from rabies is, however, beyond the reach of many of those who may need it. Treatment for people who are bitten can cost $40 to $50, representing an average of 40 days of wages in some of the affected countries.

“Recognizing that human vaccination is currently not always affordable, the new framework emphasizes prevention through vaccinating dogs – whose bites cause 99 percent of all human rabies cases. A dog vaccine costs less than $1,” the UN health agency added.

Recent WHO-led pilot projects in the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania have demonstrated that mass vaccination of dogs can drastically reduce and eventually eliminate human rabies deaths.

But bringing down the cost of human rabies vaccines and treatments will require strong international collaboration to make quality-assured vaccines and rabies immunoglobulin available to health centers in regions where rabies is endemic, the WHO said.

ACIRC ANIMAL HEALTH ASIA AND AFRICA ASIAN AND AFRICAN CONTROL OF RABIES FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION GLOBAL ALLIANCE HUMAN MARGARET CHAN RABIES SOUTH AFRICA AND TANZANIA
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