(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) September 26, 2014 – September 28 marks the 8th annual World Rabies Day, an international event created to help raise rabies awareness and save lives. While only one to two people die annually from rabies in the United States, the disease kills more than 55,000 people worldwide and creates fear-based slaughter of dogs in developing countries.
Dr. René Carlson, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its director of international affairs, chairs the newly created Pan-American World Rabies Day Initiative.
"Rabies is 100 percent fatal, yet 100 percent preventable," Carlson said. "Because the United States has emphasized vaccinating dogs for rabies since the 1950s, most people do not realize rabies is a huge problem in much of the rest of the world. The panic that sets in due to a rabies outbreak in some countries often results in mass slaughter of dogs."
The Pan-American World Rabies Day Initiative consists of representatives from eight member groups (the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), the Federación Iberoamericana de Asociaciones Veterinarias de Animales de Compañía (FIAVAC), the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), the Panamerican Association of Veterinary Sciences (PANVET), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), World Animal Protection and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) with assistance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) engaging professional colleagues in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands. The initiative hopes to build understanding of the importance of vaccinating dogs; spread awareness of the rabies risks posed by wildlife, especially bats; and educate the public about the critical importance of immediately seeking treatment if someone is bitten by an animal that may carry rabies. While treatment is available, it must begin before signs of illness are evident.
In addition to the public education campaign, the AVMA's charitable arm, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, is accepting donations to eradicate human and dog deaths in areas of the Americas where they don't have resources to vaccinate dogs. The Caribbean country of Haiti, for example, requires more than 1 million doses of rabies vaccine annually.
"The public needs to know that mass killing of dogs will not eradicate rabies. However, studies have shown even a 70 percent canine vaccination rate will control rabies outbreaks," Carlson said.
A $10 donation buys vaccine for 20 dogs, and $20 protects 50 dogs. To make a donation, visit AVMF.org and designate 2014 World Rabies Day on the program menu. For more information on rabies and World Rabies Day, listen to a podcast interview with Dr. Carlson, visit www.worldrabiesday.org and the Panamerican World Rabies Day Initiative Facebook page.