Bohol conference gets international media attention

Bohol is an island in the Philippines. It is a place of white beaches, turquoise seas, and the extraordinary ‘Chocolate Hills’. It is home to about 1.2 million people. And last week, it was host of The International Conference on Rabies Prevention.

Bohol has special significance in the fight against rabies. Following a GARC run project there, human incidences of the disease dropped from 10 per year to zero in the period from 2007 to 2010. The project involved community wide effort and vigilance but showed that when simple but comprehensive measures are put in place, rabies can be prevented.

The Philippines is among the top 10 countries for rabies incidences but this little island is now a haven from the disease. Delegates came from around the world to learn about the project and how they might replicate the results in their own countries.

And, in the way that good things bring more good things, the success of the project and the success of the conference have brought another small victory. Worldwide press coverage of the event, such as that in The Guardian and on the Reuters website, gives rabies invaluable media exposure.

Rabies is the deadliest infectious disease on earth but widely neglected by policy makers. This is partly because most victims are amongst the world’s poorest people and lack the education and means to make their voice heard. Partly because where rabies is endemic, the true cost of the disease is underestimated. And, partly because policy makers are unsure how to tackle the disease.

Events like the conference last week and the upcoming World Rabies Day, educate ‘stakeholders’ - medics, vets, policy makers. And media coverage of these events puts a global spotlight on rabies. By highlighting the needless suffering and loss of life that affects over 55 000 people every year, we can convince more people to commit and contribute to a rabies free world.