World rabies day

Today we celebrate World rabies day, and to mark the celebration we have an announcement...

Mission rabies staff in yellow polo t-shirt holding a puppy with a green mark on its head to indicate successful rabies vaccination.
28th September 2023

This World Rabies Day on 28 September, we’re marking the major milestone of over two million dogs having now been vaccinated, in the global fight against rabies.  

This turning point has been announced by Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), a subsidiary of the charity Dogs Trust, after carrying out the work as part of its project Mission Rabies. 

Every year, World Rabies Day raises awareness about the world’s deadliest disease and promotes the fight against it. Rabies is a fatal disease which causes the death of a child at least every nine minutes and costs the global economy $8.6 billion annually. Dogs are the number one source of human rabies deaths, and account for up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans. Once symptomatic the disease is deadly, and there is no treatment.  

However, human rabies deaths are entirely preventable, and the vaccination of dogs is the most effective strategy to eliminate the disease, as it stops transmission at the source.  

In addition to the human cost, each year millions of dogs are indiscriminately and inhumanely killed due to the fear associated with the disease. We know that vaccinating dogs protects them. 

“We are absolutely delighted to have supported the vaccination of over two million dogs against rabies. It is an important milestone to reach, however the work does not stop here.  

Rabies is a fully preventable disease, and our mission takes us around the world to engage communities and deploy rabies vaccination programmes. We know that the most effective way to end deaths by rabies is through mass vaccination of dogs.  

“We look forward to continuing our important work alongside WVS and with our other partners. We hope that one day we can eliminate rabies, saving countless human and canine lives”. 

Karen Reed, Executive Director of Dogs Trust Worldwide 

About rabies

What is rabies?  

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It affects both animals and humans. The symptoms can include restlessness, aimless wandering, lethargy, drooling saliva, exaggerated reaction to sounds, and aggression. It can lead to paralysis and will always be fatal.  


How is rabies caught?

Rabies is caught through infected saliva. The main way it is caught is from a bite by an infected dog.   


How serious is rabies?  

Once symptoms appear, rabies is 100% fatal. Rabies is not currently present in the UK, but tragically it still kills 59,000 people every year around the world. It’s the world’s deadliest disease, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of dogs each year, and of a child at least every nine minutes.  

What can we do about rabies?  

Rabies is 100% preventable through vaccination. That’s why it’s so important that dogs are vaccinated before they travel in or out of the UK, to prevent the disease ever coming back here. In countries that still have rabies, studies have proven that mass dog vaccination programmes are key to controlling the disease. 

How we’re working to eliminate rabies  

In May 2023, it was announced that Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and its Mission Rabies project, would become part of the Dogs Trust family, in a move which will advance the fight against rabies and transform welfare standards for dogs and animals worldwide. 

In addition to their vaccination programmes, the group operate several initiatives across the globe which aim to help eliminate human deaths due to dog bite transmitted rabies and improve animal welfare standards around the world through sustainable improvements to veterinary care. These include spaying and neutering dogs, vet training, and community outreach. 

"Our pledge is to half the number of human rabies deaths in the next five years and protect hundreds of thousands of dogs. We can do this as part of Dogs Trust. The key to eliminating rabies is breaking the cycle of transmission by vaccinating 70% of the dogs in any given project site. We have to do this for a few years, build up concurrent surveillance and education and then we can create rabies controlled zones. We know it works. There have been no human rabies deaths in Goa for the last five years – a direct result of our Mission Rabies project launched there in 2015 to make Goa the first rabies controlled state in India."

Luke Gamble, Founder and Chief Executive of WVS.   

The Cambodia project

  We’re working towards the day when all dogs can live happy, healthy lives. This work takes us all around the world to wherever our help is most needed.  

Cambodia, in Southeast Asia, has one of the highest rabies death rates per capita of any country in the world. In the capital, Phnom Penh, one child dies from rabies every week.   

In May 2023, WVS and Dogs Trust commenced the largest ever rabies vaccination drive in Cambodia. The drive vaccinated more than 75,000 dogs over a ten-day period in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where we estimate Between 1-2 children die each week as a result of rabies. The project is now evolving into a bigger campaign, to save both children and dogs from this horrifying disease. 

The key is to vaccinate 70% of any dog population in endemic countries. WVS aims to vaccinate 70% of the canine population, the coverage needed to eliminate the disease in dogs and prevent human deaths.    

 To vaccinate lots of dogs in a short space of time, volunteers used the WVS app to track their progress and collect data on each dog. The volunteer teams made their way through districts and surrounding villages of Phnom Penh, going door-to-door and vaccinating owned dogs, as well as any free roaming dogs that they came across along the way.   

Vets and vet students carried out the actual vaccinations, while the other team members recorded the data. After 10 days, the groups in Cambodia managed to successfully vaccinate over 75,000 dogs. 

What’s next?  

Vaccination is the most effective long-term way to stop rabies and prevent dog and human deaths, so projects like this are crucial in the fight against the disease. We’re determined to be part of the solution. With your support, and alongside our incredible partners and volunteers, we won’t stop working until rabies is gone for good.   

Thank you to our partners, funders and supporters around the world for supporting our work towards eradicating this disease.   

Want to sign up to volunteer with WVS? 

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