1.5. Why is it possible to control canine rabies?

There are no insurmountable obstacles to controlling dog rabies because:

- The global scale and magnitude of the rabies problem, a major factor in generating political support, is now widely recognized.

- In regions where the highest number of human rabies deaths and exposures occur (Africa and Asia), the domestic dog is responsible for almost all maintenance and transmission of the disease. Intervention programmes focused on preventing rabies in dogs will therefore lead to the disappearance of rabies in dogs and other species, including humans and livestock, and this has been successfully shown.

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Photo courtesy of Serengeti Carnivore Disease Project

- Rabies is entirely preventable. Modern safe, affordable and efficacious vaccines for animals have controlled rabies in many parts of the world.

- Levels of rabies virus transmission in dogs are low, as shown in this study, therefore elimination of canine rabies can be achieved.

- Controlling canine rabies at the source is essential if the disease and public health threat are ever to be eliminated, but these studies  have shown that the approach is cost-effective even before elimination is reached.

- Effective strategies for the prevention of rabies in dogs, particularly through mass immunization campaigns, are available, as shown here. Adequate community involvement can be achieved through increased awareness rendering most rural and urban dogs accessible for vaccination.

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Photo courtesy of Serengeti Carnivore Disease Project

- Diagnostic and surveillance approaches are available to help evaluate the impact of control and elimination efforts. The Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) can evaluate the whole programme’s progress towards its goal of rabies elimination.

- Reducing human rabies deaths through effective dog rabies control and dog-bite prevention is less costly than increasing the use of human vaccine. If rabies is eliminated in dogs, there will be a reduced demand for human vaccine in the long term, so strong collaborations between the medical and veterinary sectors can allow cost-sharing strategies to be developed.

Click here to view studies showing that canine rabies elimination in Africa, Asia and Latin America is a feasible objective.

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Version 4 - last updated May 2017