Why it's still a threat
Dog-transmitted rabies is a forgotten disease of the poor, among whom nobody survives to tell the tale. The lack of disease diagnosis and reporting prevents rabies from being treated as a higher priority in affected communities.
Only 54% of survey respondents in urban slums in India knew that rabies is a deadly disease. Only 30% of Ethiopian respondents believed that immediate care of bites was important in preventing rabies. A key factor in preventing the spread of rabies in endemic countries is education.
Post-bite vaccines are not always available to bite victims in resource-poor regions where they are most needed. The average cost of post-exposure treatment in Africa is around $40, and in Asia it's $49. Given that the average daily income in some countries in these regions is $1-$2, that expense can be nearly impossible for families to cover. Yet vaccinating dogs, which costs about $3, offers a cost-effective path forward for rabies elimination compared to post-exposure treatment.
Prevention methods fall short.
Vaccinating 70% of at-risk dogs can eliminate human rabies deaths, and low immunization results (50%) can still provide a reasonable chance to control the disease. The inhumane mass killing of dogs, though widely prevalent, does nothing to halt the spread of rabies, and can even worsen the problem.
A lack of coordination.
Civil society and local governments in rabies-affected areas have traditionally acted independently when tackling the disease, duplicating efforts and lacking the coordination needed to achieve last mile elimination. The Communities Against Rabies initiative, launched in August 2023, was created to address this by coordinating rabies control and elimination in at-risk areas from the ground up.
An ancient disease documented in Mesopotamia as early as 1930 B.C., rabies has one of the highest fatality rates of all infectious diseases. Once an individual shows symptoms, it is considered to be 99.9% fatal.
But it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, in the United States and many countries in Europe and Latin America, effective policies and funding have led to the complete elimination of dog rabies. But elimination of dog rabies in these countries has also led to a lack of prioritization for funding and support to eliminate the disease across the world.