September 28 marks the 17th annual World Rabies Day, an event meant to raise awareness and advocate for the elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies worldwide.
This year’s theme is “All for 1, One Health for All,” highlighting that One Health is for everyone, not a select few, according to World Rabies Day coordinator Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).
Following the success from the 2022 World Rabies Day theme, “Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths,” this year’s theme remains focused on One Health, the nonprofit organization explained on its website.
“This year’s theme adds the additional layer of highlighting the need for collaboration, the importance of equality, and strengthening overall health systems by ensuring that One Health is not for a select few but is rather something that should be available to everyone,” the site states.
In keeping with this year’s “All for 1, One Health for All” theme, the GARC suggests celebrating World Rabies Day with a canine vaccination campaign, educational initiatives, improving or undertaking laboratory diagnosis, capturing or reporting rabies data, partnering with others, or advocating for its elimination.
Individuals and organizations can register their own World Rabies Day event.
World Rabies Day is observed by the United Nations and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the AVMA, among others. The day of the annual event is the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur, who worked in collaboration to develop the first human rabies vaccine.
According to the WHO, rabies causes 59,000 human deaths annually in over 150 countries, with 95% of cases occurring in Africa and Asia. This number is likely a gross underestimate, however, because of underreporting and uncertain estimates, the WHO states, adding that the burden of disease is disproportionally borne by rural poor populations, with approximately half of cases attributable to children under 15 years of age. Unvaccinated dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans globally.
The AVMA, Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), and Canadian VMA (CVMA) adopted the “Joint AVMA-FVE-CVM Statement on the Global Control of Dog-Mediated Rabies: A One Health imperative” in 2015.
According to the joint position on the global control of rabies in dogs, “The AVMA, CVMA, and FVE recognize that canine rabies presents a serious public health risk worldwide.” Also according to the position, “The veterinary profession is uniquely poised to play a leading role in controlling and eradicating canine rabies.”
The number of animal rabies cases reported in the United States decreased significantly during 2021, according to the CDC’s annual rabies surveillance report, “Rabies Surveillance in the United States During 2021,” published in the July 2023 issue of JAVMA.
During 2021, 54 U.S. jurisdictions reported 3,663 rabid animals, representing an 18.2% decrease from the 4,479 cases reported in 2020, the report states.
Of the total reported rabid animals, 3,352 (91.5%) involved wildlife, with bats (33.9%), raccoons (28.1%), skunks (18.9%), and foxes (8.6%) representing the primary hosts confirmed with rabies. Rabid cats (5.9%), cattle (1.1%), and dogs (1%) accounted for 94% of rabies cases involving domestic animals in 2021.
Five human rabies deaths were reported in 2021, the report notes.