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December 2008 Edition

Communicable Diseases
Countries Raise Awareness on World Rabies Day 2008

Countries throughout the Americas celebrated the second annual World Rabies Day on Sept. 28, with events aimed at raising awareness of the risks of rabies and the need for education, vaccination, and public health readiness.

Advocates organized events at both the national and local levels, ranging from academic conferences and health fairs to "fun runs," poster contests, and pet vaccination. The central message for the day was that rabies, once contracted, is virtually 100 percent fatal if left untreated, but the disease is 100 percent preventable with pre- or postexposure vaccination.

World Rabies Day logoWorldwide, some 55,000 people die each year from rabies, with China and India having a high proportion of the cases. In a communiqué for World Rabies Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted that, in the Americas, human cases of rabies have dropped precipitously during the past two decades. But PAHO urged that this progress not be taken for granted.

"Our goal is to eliminate all human rabies cases transmitted by dogs, a commitment shared by the region's countries since the 1980s and one that has succeeded in reducing cases by 90 percent," said PAHO's top rabies expert, Cristina Schneider.

Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, the United States, and Uruguay have now joined most islands of the Caribbean in being free of rabies in dogs, while other countries in the region are well on the road to elimination of canine rabies.

Haiti, which as recently as 2006 reported 11 human cases contracted from dogs, was down to three cases in 2008.

Despite this major progress, "our region still faces the risk of contracting rabies from wild animals such as bats, skunks, and raccoons, and these are risks that not everyone knows about," said Schneider.

World Rabies Day partners include PAHO/WHO, the Alliance for Rabies Control, the World Organization for Animal Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, veterinary student and professional associations, and local community groups.

 
 

Events around the region

Among the events marking World Rabies Day 2008 in PAHO member countries were:

In Bogotá, Colombia, dozens of events including pet vaccination clinics, a dog show, a pet fair, a puppet show, and an academic forum on prevention and control of rabies.

In the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a radio program on rabies, a special class on rabies for children ages 4-10, a ceremony honoring local rabies researchers, a student celebration called the "Crazy Dog's Party," and a rabies themed social event organized by the Rotary Club of Bonsucesso.

In St. George's Parish, Grenada, a free clinic with check-ups, blood pressure screening, and vaccinations for both humans and pets, and a "Run 4 Rabies" open to humans and vaccinated dogs.

In Canada, events organized by Canada's Veterinarians without Borders (VWB) to raise funds for global rabies prevention programs.Awards for the top two fundraising teams were a trip for two to visit a VWB international project and a trip for two to New York City.

In Atlanta, USA, the 19th International Conference on Rabies in the Americas, an annual international meeting held since 1990 at locations throughout North and South America. The meeting brought together researchers, directors of national and municipal programs, laboratory workers, and others interested in rabies surveillance, prevention, and control to celebrate achievements in the field of rabies and to discuss pending challenges.

In Mexico, academic forums on dog and cat care, and rabies prevention poster contests in primary schools, held throughout Mexico's 32 states.

In Puerto Rico, distribution to 600 elementary school libraries of DVDs containing educational material on rabies prevention for children in kindergarten to 11th grade. The DVDs included a PowerPoint presentation about rabies worldwide and in Puerto Rico and videos on vaccination, basic health care of pets, and emergency preparedness. Children and teachers were asked to create their own events and projects to teach others about rabies.

 


 
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