Global & Disaster Medicine

Rabies: Zero by 30



photo of a dog on an airplane

Why eliminate rabies?

An estimated 59 000 people die from rabies each year. That’s one person every nine minutes of every day, 40% of whom are children living in Asia and Africa. As dog bites cause almost all human cases, we can prevent rabies deaths by increasing awareness, vaccinating dogs to prevent the disease at its source and administering life-saving treatment after people have been bitten. We have the vaccines, medicines, tools and technologies to prevent people from dying from dog-mediated rabies. For a relatively low cost it is possible to break the disease cycle and save lives.

A country’s health system benefits from the capacity-building required for rabies surveillance. This core activity strengthens the health system by improving the mechanisms for surveillance of other disease and expanding access to health care. Minimizing duplication and improving efficiencies by pooling resources and developing strong health service networks saves money and makes the most of resources. Countries can maximize the impact of each dollar invested.

Investing in rabies elimination saves lives and strengthens both human and veterinary health systems. A collaborative response, through rabies programmes, contributes to disease prevention and preparedness. This means integrated rabies elimination is a model for One Health collaboration.

In the past, the global response has been fragmented and uncoordinated. We need to break the status quo and come together with a combined will, an achievable goal and a common plan. That combined will was evident in 2015, and the resulting global call to action made it clear that now is the time to act.

A call for action

In 2015, the world called for action by setting a goal of zero human dog-mediated rabies deaths by 2030, worldwide. Now, for the first time, four organizations – the World Health Organizaton (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) – have joined forces, as the United Against Rabies collaboration, and are determined to reach this goal.

The United Against Rabies collaboration leverages existing tools and expertise in a coordinated way to empower, engage and enable countries to save human lives from this preventable disease. The global strategic plan puts countries at the centre with renewed international support to act.This country-centric engagement will be flexible and consider different contexts and capacities. Countries will lead efforts, driving the changes needed to reach Zero by 30, empowered by the United Against Rabies collaboration, as they build sustainable institutional capacity and end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies.

In the United States, rabies is mostly found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes (shown here).

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