A social media campaign to raise awareness of rabies has reached more than a million people in India – the country with the highest number of rabies deaths in the world.

The Me and My Dog photo campaign, ran by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), reminds owners of the need to vaccinate their dogs against rabies to keep both people and animals safe.

It was launched in India on World Rabies Day with support from MSD Animal Health. Hundreds of photos were shared and the campaign reached more than 1.2 million people in the country, and even trended on Twitter.

Despite being preventable, rabies kills about 70,000 people – 17,000 in India – every year, many of whom die through a lack of access to lifesaving medical treatment. The number of dogs that die as a result of the disease, or as a result of culls aimed at controlling dog populations, is estimated at tens of millions.

The global campaign attracted support from the celebrity world. GARC’s patron, the author Alexander McCall-Smith, was joined by a host of other names including Samantha Fox, Orla Kiely, Richard Madeley and the Bollywood star Esha Deol.

GARC executive director Louis Nel said it was delighted MSD Animal Health was helping “multiply efforts and fight rabies on a global scale”.

Alasdair King, director of intergovernmental veterinary health for MSD Animal Health, said the human health, companion animal division and intergovernmental health divisions all contributed, showing the importance the company gave to the control of rabies.

“This is a disease we can control by all working together and we are committed to developing partnerships which will find new ways to stop these horrible deaths,” he said.

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