World Rabies Day: Rabies elimination could save the world $124 billion annually

27 September 2013

  • Rabies, one of the world’s deadliest diseases, impacts 5 billion people, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year
  • Canine rabies costs the world $124 billion annually, but could be eliminated by vaccination for as little as $6 billion
  • World Rabies Day on September 28th brings the world together to raise awareness of the disease
  • For full information of events happening near you, visit the Global Alliance for Rabies Control

Geneva, Switzerland, 26 September 2013 – The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) today marks preparations for the 7th annual World Rabies Day on 28 September by calling for a renewed effort at the global, national and community levels to defeat a disease which wreaks untold suffering on millions of people each year.

Rabies, which remains widespread throughout much of the developing world, kills tens of thousands of people each year and impacts the lives of as many as 5 billion people. Over 95% of human rabies deaths today occur in Africa and Asia as a result of being bitten by an infected dog and up to 60% of all dog bites and rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age.The cost of this in terms of global economic output is a staggering $124 billion: this disproportionately hits poorer parts of the world hardest.

Yet while the financial burden of rabies remains so high, the cost of defeating it is much lower. It has been calculated that elimination of canine rabies could be achieved for as little as $6-$8 billion. This suggests that every dollar spent could generate a saving of 15 and 20 dollars annually.

These calculations have been prepared by the economics sub-group of the Partners for Rabies Prevention (PRP), an informal group of stakeholders convened by GARC, which unites the major multilateral agencies involved in rabies control, the private sector, research scientists and the donor community.

The economics sub-group said in a statement:

"Canine rabies impacts 5 billion people and kills tens of thousands of people, mainly children, in the poorest parts of the world every year. The estimated global economic costs are $124 billion each year. Our goal is to eliminate this horrific disease for the global public good. If we could act together now, this could be achieved within our lifetime for between $6 and $8 billion."

Most of the financial cost of rabies comes from the loss of human life, including thedownstream economic impacts of the loss of victims’ future earnings. The direct and indirect cost of vaccination is the next highest figure. The figures, based on published data, show that rabies has a huge financial impact alongside the well-known physical, social and psychological costs of the disease. Crucially, the economic impact affects not just the victims and those who require vaccination but the community as a whole.

According to Professor Debbie Briggs, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control: “The technology to eliminate human deaths from canine rabies already exists and has been proven effective in many parts of the world. What is needed to free the global community from this disease is political and financial commitment to increase capacity for such control measures. World Rabies Day gives people all over the world an opportunity to highlight these issues to decision makers and push for rabies elimination measures in their countries.”

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Day of action across the globe

Across the world on September 28, events are being organized to raise awareness of rabies prevention and mobilize support to defeat the disease. Here are just a few:

●      Hama, Syria: With the civil war in the country having led to the collapse of the country’s animal health programme, the Faculty of Animal Health at Al Baath University has organized a day of workshops offering advice on animal health and rabies prevention

●      Zamboanga City, Philippines: A mass dog walk, starting at the city’s Dog Pound

●      Abuja, Nigeria; will host a Dog Show Against Rabies

●      London, United Kingdom: The University of London will host an exhibition and talk with leading rabies researchers 

●      Annecy, France: Fondation Merieux and Institut Pasteur host an event to discuss new concepts in rabies vaccines and vaccinology

●      USA: Free rabies vaccination clinics for dogs and cats across the country.