What is rabies?

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases can pass between species. Bird flu and swine flu are other zoonotic diseases.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system causing severely distressing neurological symptoms before causing the victim to die. 

Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate.

Is rabies always fatal?

Yes, it is always fatal once clinical symptoms appear.

However, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) stops the virus before clinical symptoms appear, if given immediately after exposure (from a bite or scratch of a rabid animal).

[What is PEP? is answered here

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies is usually transmitted through the saliva of the host animal (or person), usually via a bite or scratch.

Most human cases (90%) are caused by exposure from an infected dog. However bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes are also known to be important resevoirs of the disease.

Other, rare forms of transmission are when saliva comes into contact with mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), through inhalation of aerosolized saliva, and through corneal and internal organ transplantation.

Eating raw meat or other tissues from rabid animals (while not advisable) does not transmit the infection. But this does not give any protection against rabies either.

There have been cases where butchering raw meat from rabid animals has transmitted the infection, presumably through infectious nervous tissue coming into contact with wounds in the skin.

Who does rabies affect?

Those most at risk of the disease today are children living in the poorest parts of the world, particularly rural Africa and Asia. 

The second most at risk group are young men in these areas. They are often the breadwinners and their death often has dire financial consequences for their families.

Rabies is Preventable. Please get involved to help us do more

Where is rabies a problem?

Rabies is found on every continent except Antarctica.

It is well controlled in most developed countries through ongoing public health measures.

Today, over 90% of rabies deaths are in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where canine rabies is wide-spread.

How big is the problem?

Estimates suggest 3.3 billion people live with the daily risk of rabies.

Best estimates are that 59,000 people die from the disease every year.

Over half of the people who die are children.

We're working to eliminate human deaths from rabies. There are lots of ways you can help us. Find out more here

How does rabies perpetuate poverty?

Some of the world’s poorest people are those most at risk of the disease.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of vaccines administered urgently after exposure to the virus from a rabid animal. PEP stops the onset of clinical symptoms and certain death.

However, it comes at a high price, sometimes several times a household's monthly income. 

Families living in rural areas of Africa and Asia often face the desperate choice of selling livestock (on which they depend for food) to pay for the cost of rabies treatment or dying (or allowing a family member to die) of the disease.

Currently, PEP costs the global economy 10x the amount it would cost to eliminate canine rabies at source (by vaccinating dogs). Overwhelmingly, this cost is paid for by the world's poorest people, perpetuating their poverty.

Please donate to help alleviate the suffering caused by rabies. 

What would you do?

Imagine your children are happily playing with a puppy outside. They do not realise that the young dog is behaving oddly, before it bites one of them.

In the frenzy that follows all the children are either bitten or scratched by the dog, which is rabid.

That's what happened to Chuki's children and this is the dilemma she faced.

Rabies treatment for just one child cost more than her total monthly household income.

She knew she could not borrow enough money to pay for all of her children to be treated.

She faced a horrible decision. She had to choose which of her children would receive treatment - effectively, she had to choose which of her children would live, and which would die.

How could you choose?

But this story has a happy ending. We found Chuki and we were able to help her get treatment for all her children. 

Please help prevent other families from facing a similar dilemma. Donate. Protect.