Big Story 10

Global initiative aims to end human rabies deaths by 2030

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human deaths from rabies can be ended by 2030 through the mass immunization of dogs, along with better healthcare and education, the United Nations said on Thursday at the launch of the world’s largest anti-rabies initiative.

Rabies kills about 59,000 people a year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), mainly in Asian and African countries with large populations of stray dogs.

“There is no reason for anyone to die of rabies in today’s world, and rabies endemic countries have made its elimination a priority,” Louis Nel, chief executive of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, a U.S.-based charity, said in a statement.

“With strong and sustained commitment from the human and animal health sectors, we can and will end this deadly disease.”

Rabies is mainly caused by bites from dogs contaminated with the virus and occurs in more than 150 countries, FAO said.

It is easily prevented with a vaccine, but many people do not realize they have been infected and once symptoms begin to show, it is usually fatal.

It is a neglected disease that largely affects the poor and rural communities, with about $500 million of livestock dying from rabies each year, FAO said.