World Rabies Day is on September 28 and Australian-based international animal charity Vets Beyond Borders is highlighting the importance of vaccinating dogs to help prevent the spread of the deadly rabies virus.
Rabies kills nearly 60,000 people around the world every year, according to the World Health Organisation. The virus is spread through the saliva of infected animals by biting another animal or a person, and it is always fatal once clinical symptoms appear. An estimated 5.5 billion plus people live at daily risk of rabies¹. Thankfully, Australia is free from this disease.
“Rabies is nearly always fatal but it’s 100 per cent preventable by vaccination,” said Maryann Dalton, CEO of Vets Beyond Borders, which deploys volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nurses across the globe to deliver animal health and community awareness programs where they are desperately needed. “Australia does not have rabies. But we need to bring this deadly dog-mediated disease to the Australian public’s attention.”
Rabies warning in Australia
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture is warning the virus could reach Australia’s shores at any time as it spreads across our northern neighbours. There is the risk of yachts or fishing vessels carrying rabies-infected dogs from Indonesia landing on Australia’s northern coastline and mixing with dingoes and community cats and dogs. If these dogs become infected with rabies, they would be a huge threat to the health and safety of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people living in northern Australia communities.
This year’s World Rabies Day awareness theme is Rabies: Vaccinate to Eliminate and highlights the importance of keeping dogs vaccinated, helping people in need to seek and obtain life-saving treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis), and committing to the 2030 goal of eliminating rabies deaths.
“Dog bites cause almost all human cases of rabies,” said Ms Dalton. “We can prevent rabies deaths through increased awareness, vaccinating dogs to prevent disease at its source, and timely life-saving post-bite treatment for people.”
VBB anti-rabies program eliminating dog-mediated deaths
Vets Beyond Borders has been running animal birth control and anti-rabies programs in India (which carries a third of the world’s rabies burden) for nearly 15 years, providing canine rabies vaccination, humane dog population control, community education and treatment of sick and injured animals.
“VBB’s Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) program is the first state-wide rabies program and has demonstrated successful near elimination of this dog-mediated disease²,” said Ms Dalton.
In the last financial year, VBB desexed over 7,000 animals, administered nearly 36,000 doses of anti-rabies vaccine and 290 doses of distemper vaccine, in addition to the medical, surgical and hospital care VBB provides to hundreds of sick and injured domestic animals and wildlife.
During the current financial year, in addition to treating sick and injured animals, VBB will administer 30,000 to 40,000 rabies vaccinations plus approximately 200 distemper vaccinations and sterilisation of up to 9,000 dogs, Ms Dalton added.
“Vets Beyond Borders provides the volunteers and facilitates clinical skill development of local vets,” she said. “We need funds to purchase medical equipment and vaccinations to treat street dogs for distemper, parvo and rabies.”
For more information about Vets Beyond Borders’ animal health and community awareness programs, please visit www.vetsbeyondborders.org
Click here for Vets Beyond Border’s #WorldRabiesDay awareness campaign.
How can you help prevent the spread of rabies?
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture has released an educational video, ‘Keep a Top Watch’ on rabies in the community, as well as information on the signs of rabies.
The public can help prevent the introduction and spread of rabies by always declaring animals brought into Australia and immediately reporting any suspected case of rabies by phoning the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888