Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous systems of mammals, including humans. The virus is particularly present in the saliva and brain of infected animals. It is transmitted via the saliva of an infected animal, most often a dog. The incubation period varies from several days to several months. Once symptoms are present, the disease is fatal for both animals and humans. Rabies is still a pervasive global threat. Half of the world’s population live in an endemic area, and more than 80% of deaths occur in rural areas, where access to health education campaigns, and post-bite prophylaxis is limited or inexistent. Africa and Asia are the continents with the highest risk of human mortality, with more than 95% of the world’s fatal cases. These regions are also those where canine rabies is least controlled. Around 99% of human cases of rabies are due to bites from infected dogs. Controlling and eradicating rabies therefore means combatting it at its animal source.

Rabies still kills

Around 99% of human cases of rabies are due to dog bites and unlike many other diseases, we already have all the tools needed to eradicate it.

Rabies is one of the most deadly zoonoses. Each year, it kills nearly 59,000 people worldwide, mostly children in developing countries.

Prevent human rabies by eliminating canine rabies

Three key ways to eliminate rabies in humans:

  • Mass vaccination of dogs in infected areas – the only way to permanently interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans.
  • Preventative vaccination for humans.
  • Administration of anti-rabies serum following a bite by a dog suspected to be infected.

Mass vaccination of dogs is the method of choice, as this is the only real way to interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans. It is estimated that by vaccinating 70% of the dogs where infection is still rife, rabies could be eradicated in dogs and the number of human cases would rapidly drop to almost zero. Excellent anti-rabies vaccines for dogs, developed according to OIE standards, are nowadays available.

Global collaboration

An effective rabies control strategy can only be achieved through the effective coordination of partners applying the same strategies.

The OIE works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and others to develop international recommendations aimed at greater intersectoral collaboration and global implementation of the most appropriate strategies.

United Against Rabies Forum

In response to a global call to action made in 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) developed the country-centric Zero by 30: The Global Strategic Plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. The first annual report described great progress but also highlighted the need to adapt and grow the approach in response to lessons learned.

Subsequently, and to build on the strong foundation laid out in Zero by 30, the Tripartite (comprising FAO, OIE, and WHO) launched the United Against Rabies Forum (the Forum) in 2020. The Forum is an inclusive network bringing together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to share knowledge, experience and ideas that will support countries and regions in developing and implementing effective rabies elimination programmes.

Forum Working Groups create useable outputs that will support the implementation of rabies elimination programmes, help countries build national strategies, and build advocacy and resource mobilisation strategies. The Forum provides a central platform where stakeholders can easily access these resources, while the annual stakeholder meetings are intended to foster networks and relationships so that we can collectively overcome the challenges of achieving elimination of dog-mediated human rabies.

Visit the United Against Rabies Forum website here

Key resources

Tripartite activities

In addition to the work with the United Against Rabies Forum, the OIE is working in partnership with WHO and FAO (the Tripartite) to minimise the health, social and economic impact of rabies by coordinating activities worldwide.

Rabies is one of the issues identified as a priority by the Tripartite within the framework of the joint One Health approach developed through the Tripartite Alliance.


OIE Vaccine Bank for rabies

By providing high-quality vaccines, the OIE Vaccine Bank helps countries implement vaccination campaigns and contribute to the elimination of dog-mediated human rabies.

  • View and download our informative brochure here.
  • Watch a video on the OIE Vaccine Bank for rabies.

World Rabies Day

#rabiesendshere  #Rabies  #Zeroby30  #WorldRabiesDay

Each year, on the 28 September, the international community comes together to promote the fight against rabies. World Rabies Day is a day of action and awareness-raising. It is a chance for you to join the global movement. You can organise or participate in any event happening virtually or near your home. Check the toolkit for useful material for your event.

OIE international standards and networks

The OIE provides science-based standards, guidelines and recommendations for the control of the disease in animals and to prevent its spread as well as standards for the diagnosis of rabies and the production of high quality veterinary vaccines.

The OIE’s scientific standards are updated regularly, and include:

  • the prevention and control of rabies, including provisions for OIE-endorsed official control programmes for dog-mediated rabies

OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chapter 8.14 ‘Infection with rabies virus’

  • stray dog population control

OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chapter 7.7 ‘Stray dog population control’

  • international movement of dogs and cats originating from rabies-infected countries

OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chapter 5.11 ‘Model veterinary certificate for international movement of dogs, cats and ferret originating from countries considered infected with rabies’

  • diagnostic methods and production of vaccines of a veterinary standard

OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Manual Chapter 2.1.13 ‘Rabies’.

These standards have been adopted through consensus by all OIE Members.

Guidance

  • Standard operating procedures for official disease status / endorsement of control programme applications
  • Questionnaire to provide guidance to OIE Members in preparation of their dossiers for endorsement of official control programmes for dog-mediated rabies.

OIE global scientific network

Through its global network of more than 300 Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres (collectively, ‘Reference Centres‘) the OIE provides policy advice, strategy design and technical assistance for the diagnosis, control and eradication of rabies.

The OIE’s specialist rabies Reference Laboratories across the world are centres of expertise and standardisation of diagnostic methods. OIE reference experts – internationally renowned researchers – are committed to enabling the Reference Laboratories to provide the required technical and scientific expertise and to form opinions regarding the monitoring and control of the disease.

They also propose scientific and technical training for OIE Members and coordinate scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other laboratories and organisations.

Media resources

Members of the public, owners of dogs and other animals, journalists, veterinarians, national Veterinary services, governments – rabies is a devastating disease that affects us all.

Whoever we are and wherever we are, we can each contribute in our own way to the global fight against rabies.

This is why the OIE has made fact sheets, easy-to-use tools, videos and its standpoints available to all.The sharing of information is vital in this daily struggle.

Let’s all get involved today!


World rabies day toolkit

Click here or on the infographic above to access a wealth of free resources for your campaign.

This campaign aims to generate a sense of pride in people who have had a dog vaccinated against rabies and create a social trend to increase the number of people involved in vaccination campaigns.

Veterinary Services, dog owners, community members, YOU ALL have a ROLE to play.

Because behind each vaccinated dog, there is a man, a woman, a child, who made the move to vaccinate their animal or the one of their community.

A wide range of tools, both printable and digital are available and ready to be shared with your networks.

The comprehensive campaign guide, as well as the social media guide will help you explore the tools and how they can be best used and disseminated.

  • The printable tools include posters, certificates, flyers, and a logo that can be used for goodies.
  • The digital toolkit includes a video as well as social media frames and more!

Discover the tools and share them with your network!

Available in 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

Download all the tools at once here


OIE interactive infographic on rabies

If you have difficulty viewing the infographic, display fullscreen mode.

Infographic on rabies:
To share the link:
to be updated
To integrate the infographic into your website:
<iframe src=”https://www.oie.int/infographic/rabies/”  border=”0″ scrolling=”yes” height=”650″ width=”600″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

Myanmar: Sharing the message on rabies to save lives

Myanmar 2016 to 2018

‘Rabies kills’. Daw Kyi, a 68-year-old farmer, grew up hearing this statement and stories about regular human and dog rabies cases in her small rural village in the Lewei township of Myanmar. As many other inhabitants of her village and neighbouring ones, she knew that the deadly disease could easily be transmitted from dogs to humans but had very little knowledge on what to do to prevent it.

In 2016, the situation changed. The Myanmar Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD), with the support of the OIE, initiated a pilot project in Lewei to demonstrate that rabies can be eliminated by vaccinating dogs, the primary source of human cases. House-to-house free dog vaccinations were developed, reaching 100,000 animals at this initial step. However, the pilot was not limited to the vaccination campaigns: aware of the importance of education to prevent rabies, the LBVD developed public awareness activities for a better understanding of the disease and its prevention. It was the first time in their lives that Daw Kyi and her neighbours participated in rabies talks and received communication tools on the importance of vaccinating dogs and treating bite wounds to protect themselves from this 99.9% fatal disease.

The pilot project, part of the Rabies National Control Programme, was repeated in 2017 and 2018, and extended to other townships. The OIE provided technical and financial resources to Myanmar to conduct these activities: 450,000 doses of dog rabies vaccines were delivered through the OIE Vaccine Bank and vaccinators were trained on good practices before the campaigns.

Thanks to the pilot activities implemented, no animal rabies cases were reported in Lewei from 2016 to 2018. Moreover, the impact goes further: the number of dog-bite patients that receive post exposure prophylaxis at hospitals has increased, as Daw Kyi and her neighbours are now aware about dog bite management. No human dog rabies case has been reported in their village since the beginning of the dog vaccination campaign: new generations can now grow up in a different reality than those of their elders.

The pilot project developed in Lewei shows that it is possible to control rabies by sharing the message on how we can prevent the disease and implementing the needed measures. However, an average of 200 human rabies cases per year have still been confirmed in Myanmar over the five past years. As next steps, Myanmar plans to expand the awareness activities to other risk areas as part of their National Plan for Rabies Elimination (2018 to 2030), to ensure that everyone in the country grows up knowing how to prevent rabies.

Namibia: Supporting national strategies against rabies

Northern Communal Area 2016 to 2018

Implementing a national rabies elimination strategy is a long-term process which involves many different actors. In order to best accompany countries’ effort to eliminate the disease, the OIE puts in place various programmes.

A recent example is the launch of a 3-year project in northern Namibia, where 93% of the country’s dog rabies cases occur. Commenced shortly after the launch of the government’s National Rabies Control Strategy, this project aims to escalate the number of vaccinated dogs and to increase awareness among the population, with the objective of eliminating rabies. An initial pilot phase was implemented in the Oshana region from March 2016; following its success it has been extended to seven neighbouring areas (Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kunene, Omusati, Kavango West, Kavango East, Zambezi) and will run until May 2018.

Lessons learnt from this successful example will help improve rabies control in Southern Africa.

Tunisia: Vaccinating stray dogs to save human lives

Tunis (Tunisia)

Rabies still kills humans in several parts of the world. 95% of human rabies cases are caused by bites from infected dogs. Therefore, vaccinating dogs is the best way to prevent human deaths caused by rabies.

In the framework of its national rabies control programme, Tunisia organises annual mass dog vaccination campaigns. However, vaccinating stray dogs remains a major challenge because they are often difficult to catch.

In order to address this issue effectively, the Tunisian Authorities in charge of animal health have decided to take action and requested OIE’s support. In 2017, the OIE organised a workshop to train professionals from the Municipality of Tunis in charge of mass dog vaccination to catch and handle stray and aggressive dogs.

Discover the outcomes in this short video!

Lesotho: Rehabilitating veterinary facilities to prevent rabies in dogs

Maseru (Lesotho) September 2016

The access to quality veterinary facilities is essential for efficient rabies control in affected countries. It contributes to managing dog populations, carrying out dog vaccinations and raising awareness on the disease among dog owners.

In countries where rabies is still present, mass dog vaccination campaigns are the most cost-effective way to control the disease. Indeed by vaccinating 70% of dogs in at-risk areas, rabies could be eradicated.

In 2016, the OIE funded the refurbishment of a government veterinary clinic and kennels in Lesotho in order to help them implement their vaccination campaigns.

To escalate support to its Member Countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the OIE will hand over another refurbished facility in Maputo (Mozambique) on World Rabies Day 2017.

Haiti: Vaccinating dogs to move towards rabies eradication

Haiti April 2017

Among the existing measures to eradicate the disease, dogs’ vaccination plays a central role.

In 2017, the Haitian National Anti-rabies Programme carried out a 3-month mass dog vaccination campaign with the objective to vaccinate 70% of their dog population. To support this campaign, the OIE provided 100.000 doses of vaccines through its Rabies Vaccine Bank, with the support of the Canadian Government. 

Thanks to this vaccine provision, Haiti could focus on other aspects of their rabies elimination programme. They could notably invest in technological innovations and equip the personal in charge of vaccination with smartphones to have a better knowledge of the dog population.

Implementing such vaccination campaigns on a regular basis can contribute to eradicate rabies in Haiti.

Vaccinate dogs now!

FAQ

Download in pdf format (July 2020).

What are key rabies statistics?

  • Rabies kills around 59,000 people a year, mainly children in rural areas.
  • Around 99% of human cases are caused by bites from infected dogs.
  • Vaccinating 70% of dogs allows rabies to be eradicated from a given endemic area.
  • As of July 2020, 25.3 million anti-rabies vaccines have been delivered by the OIE, mainly to countries in Asia and Africa.

The disease

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans. The virus is present in the saliva and brain of infected animals. It is generally transmitted by the bite of diseased animals – most commonly dogs and other carnivores. Bats also represent an important reservoir in certain regions. The incubation period is variable, from several weeks to several months, but once the symptoms appear, the disease is fatal, in animals as well as in humans.

What is rabies virus?

Rabies virus belongs to the genus Lyssavirus, a group of viruses responsible for causing encephalitis. Twelve distinct lyssavirus species can be distinguished within the genus, being the classical rabies virus (RABV) the most important one for public and animal health. The different RABV variants circulate in carnivores, most commonly domestic dogs and cats and, depending on the continent, various other species of carnivores (including foxes and jackals) or chiroptera (bats).

Where is the disease found?

Classical rabies virus is found throughout the world. Some countries have implemented stringent sanitary measures and have succeeded in eradicating the disease and selfdeclare freedom from dog-mediated rabies. In other countries the disease remains endemic, with rabies present in dogs and/or in wildlife.

What is the extent of rabies worldwide?

Every nine minutes someone dies from rabies. Each year, rabies kills around 59,000 people worldwide: it especially affects children in developing countries, with Africa and Asia being the worst hit. In countries where people are still dying from the disease, dogs are the main reservoir of rabies. Controlling the disease in dogs, and especially stray dogs, must therefore be the first priority to prevent lethal cases in humans.

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Infection occurs primarily via bite wounds: Around 99% of human cases are due to bites by infected dogs.

How does rabies virus spread within the body?

The virus will generally remain at the entry site in the body for a period of time before travelling along the nerves to the brain where it multiplies. The virus then moves along nerves to the salivary glands.

What is the incubation period for rabies?

The period of time before clinical signs appear in an infected animal can vary from several days to several months depending on the strain of virus, the species, the individual and the point of entry in the body. The disease can therefore be transmitted to other animals and humans via the saliva of an infected animal, sometimes even before the onset of clinical signs in the infected animal, constituting an insidious threat to anyone coming into contact with the animal.


What are the clinical signs of rabies in animals?

The clinical signs of rabies will vary depending on the effect of the virus on the brain. In its classical form, the disease is expressed by sudden behavioural changes: infected animals, especially wild animals, can lose their natural fear of other animals and humans, allowing them to come into unusually close proximity and contact, especially in the case of humans. As the disease evolves, it causes cerebral dysfunction, cranial nerve dysfunction, ataxia, weakness, progressive paralysis, seizures,
difficulty breathing and swallowing, as well as excessive salivation. Aggressive behaviours and self-mutilation can also be observed. The disease progressively leads to death.

In some cases, however, the behavioural changes are minimal, and the animal may die rapidly without showing significant clinical signs.

How is rabies diagnosed?

The disease may be suspected based on clinical signs but laboratory tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Samples taken from dead animals must be sent to competent laboratories for diagnosis. OIE recommendations can be found in the OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals.

What should you do in case of a bite by an animal, whether wild or domestic?

Any bite by a domestic or wild animal must be investigated. The incident must be reported to a veterinarian, who will then take the appropriate measures. The bitten person must consult quickly a medical doctor.


The OIE’s strategy in the fight against rabies

What are the public health risks associated with this disease?

Rabies is regarded as one of the world’s most important zoonoses (diseases that are naturally transmissible from animals to humans). The occurrence of rabies in domestic dogs poses a threat to humans and this is still a major concern in many developing countries. The disease can sometimes have economic consequences in some countries when it affects livestock (e.g. cattle, horses, small ruminants).

Must cases of rabies be notified to the OIE?

Rabies is on the list of animal diseases in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. It is therefore compulsorily notifiable to the OIE by the veterinary authorities of the Members concerned, under the responsibility of the country’s Delegate to the OIE. At the same time, countries may also voluntarily publish self-declaration for rabies-free status.

What are the OIE’s aims regarding rabies control?

The OIE’s aims are not only to encourage transparency in notification of the disease by its Members but to encourage governments to invest in priority control programmes such as rabies prevention, in particular through vaccination of dogs, the
main source of the disease for humans.

What are the prevention and control measures for rabies?

In countries where the disease is endemic, measures are implemented to address and
reduce the risk of infection in animal populations susceptible to the disease (wildlife,
stray animals, and domestic animals under their owner’s control) and create a buffer
between the animal source of the disease and humans.

These measures include:

  • public awareness and education campaigns (for the general public, for dog owners and children)
  • surveillance and reporting of suspected cases of rabies in susceptible animals
  • research into disease dynamics, suitable vaccines and vaccine delivery mechanisms for target populations
  • vaccination programmes for domestic animals, especially dogs, mainly by injectable route
  • vaccination programmes for wild animals (usually by distributing vaccine baits in the natural environment)
  • stray animal population control programmes, where feasible.

Rabies control programmes are a major challenge for many countries. Nevertheless, the cost of vaccinating dogs remains minimal compared to the actual cost of emergency post-exposure prophylaxis for people who have been bitten. Indeed, 10%
of the overall cost of these treatments would be sufficient to considerably reduce or even eliminate canine rabies.

Occupational groups regularly in contact with animals, such as veterinarians and animal control and wildlife officers, must take measures to prevent infection from saliva, salivary glands and nervous tissue of infected animals, and they should in certain cases obtain protection through pre-exposure vaccination. In the event of a person being bitten by a domestic or wild carnivore it will be necessary to urgently seek for physician and veterinary advice. Further details could be found on the WHO website. Vaccination of humans is also advisable.

What is the purpose of rabies vaccination programmes?

Vaccination of dogs is the preferred method of controlling and eliminating rabies worldwide. For epidemiological, ethical, and economic reasons, the culling of animals that are potential reservoirs cannot be considered as the first priority for control and
eradication of rabies. All successful rabies eradication campaigns have included measures combining control and vaccination of stray dog populations and vaccination of all owned dogs.

Vaccination campaigns are set up with the aim of achieving coverage of around 70% of the canine population in a zone where rabies is endemic as it disrupts the rabies transmission cycle.

In wild animals, oral immunisation using vaccine-containing baits has produced excellent results in some animal species (fox, raccoon, skunk, etc.) and has proved an effective solution to control, for instance, or even eradicate rabies in foxes in Western
Europe. However, the cost is high.

What is the OIE doing?

The OIE develops science-based standards, guidelines, and recommendations to control the disease in animals and prevent its spread. The Organisation also publishes standards on diagnosis of the disease and the production of high-quality veterinary
vaccines and on stray dog population control.

The OIE’s standards relating to rabies are regularly revised, with the emphasis on the epidemiological importance of the animal species most frequently linked to human cases (generally dogs).

The OIE is working in partnership with WHO and FAO to minimise the health, social and economic impact of rabies by coordinating activities worldwide.

The OIE has established a Vaccine Bank for dog vaccination against rabies and provides, when requested, technical support to its Members.


Programmes and support from the OIE for rabies control

Do we have the means to eliminate canine rabies?

Analysts have estimated that just 10% of the financial resources currently used for emergency treatment of people bitten by rabid dogs, within the context of postexposure prophylaxis, would be sufficient to enable national Veterinary Services throughout the world to eradicate rabies at its source, rabid dogs, and so prevent almost all human cases worldwide (currently around 59,000 deaths per year).

What support can the OIE rely on in the fight against rabies?

A rabies control strategy cannot be effective without the support of coordinated partners using the same strategies.

The OIE first of all relies on the Veterinary Services of its 182 Members.

In cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) the OIE has been developing for many years recommendations aimed at ensuring good intersectoral collaboration and worldwide implementation of the most appropriate strategies.

In response to a global call to action made in 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) developed the country-centric Zero by 30: The Global Strategic Plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. The first annual report described great progress but also highlighted the need to adapt and grow the approach in response to lessons learned.

Subsequently, and to build on the strong foundation laid out in Zero by 30, the Tripartite (comprising FAO, OIE, and WHO) launched the United Against Rabies Forum (the Forum) in 2020. The Forum is an inclusive network bringing together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to share knowledge, experience and ideas that will support countries and regions in developing and implementing effective rabies elimination programmes.

Forum Working Groups create useable outputs that will support the implementation of rabies elimination programmes, help countries build national strategies, and build advocacy and resource mobilisation strategies. The UAR Forum provides a central platform where stakeholders can easily access these resources, while the annual stakeholder meetings are intended to foster networks and relationships so that we can collectively overcome the challenges of achieving elimination of dot-mediated human rabies.

OIE Members are themselves responsible for implementing the control methods advocated by the OIE, through their Veterinary Services, Public Health Services, local authorities, municipalities and police force. They can also receive support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Since May 2019, OIE Standards on rabies include guidance for countries to apply, on a voluntary basis, for the endorsement of their national control programmes for dog-mediated rabies. These guidelines support countries to compile (in a standardised manner) documented evidence that demonstrates compliance with the requirements described in the Terrestrial Code. The standard operating procedures for the official recognition of disease status / endorsement of national official control programme applications are available here. The first programmes will be endorsed in May 2021.

Who are the OIE’s experts?

The OIE has twelve Reference Laboratories worldwide, designated for their scientific excellence in the field of rabies. The reference experts are responsible for those scientific matters of the OIE and all its Members that fall within their remit. They are internationally renowned researchers who actively help their Reference Laboratories to provide technical and scientific assistance and give advice on rabies surveillance and diagnosis. They also offer scientific and technical training for OIE Members and coordinate scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other laboratories or organisations.

Does the OIE provide support for rabies vaccination?

Support for developing countries is essential. With the financial support of the European Union, Australia, Germany, France, Canada and Japan, the OIE World Animal Health and Welfare Fund has already enabled various steps to be taken, such as the creation of an anti-rabies dog vaccine bank in 2012 and regular deliveries mainly to Asia’s and Africa’s poorest countries.To date (July 2020), 25.3million anti-rabies vaccines have been distributed by the OIE. Of these, 7.7 million have been directly delivered by the OIE to countries to aid their national vaccination programmes. An additional 17.6 million doses have been ordered by countries or international organisations. In total, 37 beneficiary countries have received rabies vaccine from the OIE Vaccine Bank.

In the framework of the Tripartite Alliance (WHO, OIE, FAO), WHO has decided to place its procurement orders for canine vaccines through the OIE Rabies Vaccine Bank. As of July 2020, 16.3million doses of rabies vaccines were purchased by WHO through the OIE Rabies Vaccine Bank for delivery to the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Central African Republic and Pakistan.

This model guarantees the availability of high-quality vaccines complying with OIE intergovernmental standards, their smooth delivery on the ground, and a price obtained after a global competition between potential providers.