World Rabies Day was established in 2007 to support advocacy for increased rabies control efforts, provide information on how to prevent the disease in communities at risk, and raise global awareness of rabies. It is held annually on September 28 and features events, media outreach, and other initiatives from local to international governments, professionals, and individuals.
World Rabies Day is coordinated by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. In addition to promoting messages through key rabies stakeholders and carrying out specific activities to bring attention to specific issues, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control provides a centralized event platform and resources to support events around the world to expand the campaign’s reach. Over the course of the past ten years, more than 1,700 registered events have taken place all over the world and been shared with other members of the worldwide rabies community. Over time, there has been a rise in incidents in countries where canine rabies is prevalent, particularly in Asia and Africa. Beyond the individual events, governments and international organizations recognize the importance of World Rabies Day in supporting and advocating for rabies control initiatives.
World Rabies Day has become an essential component of national, regional, and global rabies elimination strategies despite the shifting landscape of the rabies epidemic. World Rabies Day has even more opportunities to make a lasting impact on rabies by bringing the ongoing situation and elimination efforts in rabies-endemic countries to the attention of policymakers and donors thanks to the global adoption of 2030 as the goal for the elimination of rabies as a public health threat. A zoonotic viral disease known as rabies is spread through infected animal saliva and nervous tissue. The World Health Organization lists it as one of 18 Neglected Tropical Diseases. Rabies has one of the highest case fatality rates of any disease and almost always results in death. However, human post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), enhanced educational awareness to prevent exposure, and mass vaccination of dog populations all contribute to the 100% prevention of rabies.
Dogs are the source of more than 99 percent of all cases of rabies in humans. An estimated 59,000 (95 percent CIs: 25–159,000) people die annually from dog-transmitted rabies, with over 95% of these deaths occurring in Africa and Asia, despite established methods of elimination. Not only do many animals suffer from the horrifying clinical symptoms of rabies, but large numbers of dogs are also killed in vain and frequently inhumane efforts to contain the virus’s spread as a result of people’s fear of it.
Canine rabies can and has been eradicated wherever there is political will and funding, but the tried-and-true methods that are primarily based on dog vaccination have not been utilized everywhere. Africa and Asia were not making any headway in their efforts to eradicate rabies a decade ago. There was little evidence of successful rabies control programs in resource-poor areas, a lack of collaboration among international stakeholders, experts, and sectors, and thousands of people were still dying in neglected communities.
To address these issues, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) was established. Over the past ten years, GARC has collaborated with a variety of international stakeholders, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to raise rabies awareness, encourage collaboration, and build the evidence base necessary to increase political commitment and funding to eradicate rabies in every nation. Recent large-scale intersectoral rabies projects in Asia and Africa have shown that vaccines that work can be used in a variety of settings and reach enough dogs to break the transmission cycle. It is now widely acknowledged that widespread dog vaccination could eradicate canine rabies.
Global elimination, despite evidence of its viability, remains a significant challenge. The primary components required to eradicate the disease are now adequate funding for the disease’s elimination on a national and international scale, as well as prioritization of the disease by governments of countries with rabies. In December 2015, member nations at a global meeting organized by the WHO, OIE, FAO, and GARC agreed on a global strategic framework for eradicating the rabies threat to public health by 2030. This marked a significant advancement.