Rabies as a public health concern

In India it is estimated that one person dies from rabies every 30 minutes.

Rabies remains a problem in many parts of the world. In developing countries rabies is a major threat to public health and is responsible for numerous human deaths. The Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India (APCRI) reported in 2004 that 20,565 humans die a year from Rabies in India. Many of the victims are children younger than 15 years.

In India ownerless and stray dogs are mainly responsible for the maintenance of the epizootic and the transmission of rabies to humans.

In developed countries the risk to humans has been minimized mainly due to mandatory rabies vaccinations of dogs and other pets. Progress in the control and elimination of wildlife rabies has been made through successful oral vaccination programs.

An integrated approach to rabies control

Mass oral vaccination of the stray dog population. Read more about Oral Vaccination.

The promotion of responsible pet ownership to dog owners:

  1. Parenteral rabies vaccination of owned dogs.
  2. Sterilization of pet dog.
  3. Unwanted dogs should not be abandoned.

Animal birth control - attempts should be made to sterilize the stray dog population or other methods of birth control should be investigated.

Suitable infrastructure for garbage disposal - to prevent the accumulation of waste in and around residential areas. This attracts stray and ownerless dog packs to these areas.

Vaccination - Sufficient and affordable cell culture vaccine should be available for post exposure treatment.

Prevention and control of rabies

Effective control of rabies in dogs requires the immunization of a large proportion of the dog population over a period of several years to reduce the contact rate between rabid and susceptible dogs to a level too low to sustain rabies transmission within the population.

Parenteral vaccination programs in developed countries have been effective in preventing rabies in dogs. This has resulted in a marked reduction in the incidence of human rabies and post exposure rabies treatments

Parenteral vaccination of pet dogs is not effective for rabies control in countries with large numbers of stray and ownerless dogs as an insufficient number of the total dog population is vaccinated.

In India an attempt to control rabies was made through programs to exterminate the stray dog population. This method proved ineffective. The stray dog population is so large that new packs of dogs quickly moved into areas where dogs had previously been eliminated.