The International Federation for Animal Health (IFAH) wants better coordination between governments, regulators, health care providers and the public to tackle rabies.

Ahead of World Rabies Day this Sunday (September 28), IFAH said the call aims to ensure “everyone has access to innovations available for the disease’s prevention and control”.

According to IFAH, despite being well-controlled in Europe, rabies is still an “immediate threat” to human and animal populations in Africa and Asia, where 95% of all rabies deaths occur. In fact, a 2012 IFAH white paper found 55,000 people die of rabies infections each year, highlighting “a need for global collaboration“.

The federation claims the animal health sector plays an important role in preventing and controlling rabies through continued innovations in vaccination programmes, global action in disease surveillance, an increase in diagnostic capacities and the promotion of responsible dog ownership. If these actions were taken up, the threat and spread of rabies “could be halted“, it said.

IFAH executive director Carel du Marchie Sarvaas said: “Rabies is a good example of a zoonotic disease with very serious consequences for both animal and human populations.

“Figures from the World Health Organisation and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) also show more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year, 40% of which are children, while 20 million dogs are culled annually in attempts to fight the disease.

“It is imperative a multi-disciplined approach is exercised across governments and both the animal and human health sectors to tackle this significant threat.”

Executive director of GARC Louis Nel said the “hope of future rabies control” is dependent “on the execution of the One Health approach on global, regional, and national levels”.

“Rabies programmes in South Africa and the Philippines have demonstrated managing rabies in the developing world is possible if there is close cooperation of the veterinary health and public health sectors. This year’s theme of #TogetherAgainstRabies highlights the need for this unified approach to tackling rabies on a global scale.”

You can join the discussion on Twitter by following @health4animals and using the #TogetherAgainstRabies hashtag.

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