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Updated on: Monday, September 27, 2021, 04:33 PM IST

World Rabies Day 2021: History, significance, theme and all that you need to know

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While the world continues to deal with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, there are other diseases too which need to be taken care of and at any cost they cannot be ignored as the neglegance may cost a lot in future. Rabies is among those deadliest infectious which causes acute inflammation of the brain and disrupts the mental faculties.

Therefore, to raise awareness about the impact of rabies and how the disease can be prevented World Rabies Day is observed on September 28 every year. Notably, the day marks the anniversary of Louis Pasteur's death, the French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.

While rabies is a 100% preventable disease, a report states that more than 59,000 people die from the disease around the world each year.

As per WHO, around 20,000 rabies deaths occurred in India every year. Rabies has killed more people in India in the last five years than COVID-19.

On the 15th edition of World Rabies Day which shall be celebrated this year, here's a look at the theme, it's significance and more:

World Rabies Day 2021: History

For the first time, World Rabies Day was celebrated on September 28 in 2007. The event was a collaboration between Alliance for Rabies Control and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA. Together with the World Health Organization (WHO). The two organizations started this day after the world suffered from the adverse effects of Rabies.

28th September 2021 will mark the 15th year of World Rabies Day. The global day is an opportunity to reflect on how rabies impacts your community and other communities around the world.

15th World Rabies Day: What is the theme?

Every year, there is a specific theme; the 15th World Rabies Day theme is 'Rabies: Facts, not Fear'. According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, the theme focuses on sharing facts about rabies, and not spreading fear about the disease by relying on misinformation and myths.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has raised many doubts and misconceptions about diseases, their spread and about vaccination in general. Because of this, there has been some hesitancy about the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines in many countries and many people are afraid to get vaccinated. For rabies, this is nothing new, as fears, misconceptions and misinformation about the disease and its prevention dates back hundreds of years.

Every year on this day, many communities and organizations around the world actively promote various activities and events that center on World Rabies Day. Many disease control centers and associations that support World Rabies Day offers free pet vaccinations, quiz competitions, conferences, training events, etc.

What are the dangers of Rabies?

Rabies is a serious viral illness that can affect any warm-blooded animal and it is also a zoonotic disease (which means that people can become infected by an infected animal). The rabies virus is present in high concentrations in the saliva of affected animals. The virus is transmitted in saliva from close contact with an infected animal. Bites, scratches or even licks on broken skin and mucous membranes can transmit the virus.

Once an animal or human is bitten by a rabid animal, it replicates in the muscle before travelling up the nerves to the spine and brain, causing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

Symptoms in animals:

Early symptoms in pets include a fever, licking or chewing at the site of a bite, dilated pupils, changes in behavior, anxiety, and seeking solitude. The second stage including avoiding light, snapping at imaginary things, lack of co-ordination and restlessness. The final stage, which usually lasts two to four days, is known as the ‘furious’ stage, in which infected animals are unable to swallow, will drool, have a ‘dropped’ jaw and their voice changes. Dramatic behavioural alterations, such as wild animals losing their fear of humans may be an indication of infection.

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Symptoms in humans:

In humans, the early symptoms of rabies are non-specific and may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, agitation, anxiety, and confusion, followed by rapid progression of nervous signs, sleepiness or agitation.

Why vaccination of pets is key ?

Every nine to ten minutes somebody dies of rabies worldwide. Between 24 000 and 70 000 human deaths are recorded in Africa alone. In 2020, a total of seven cases of rabies were confirmed by laboratories in South Africa and each year we see new cases, often affecting children.

Children are particularly at risk due to their close contact with dogs and are more likely to suffer multiple bites, which impose a higher risk of contracting rabies.

Rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats is necessary but the onus is on pet owners to ensure that their pets are vaccinated on schedule. “Pets that contract rabies are usually bitten by a wild animal that has come into a yard, so simply keeping pets in urban gardens isn’t enough to prevent infection,” says a South Africa health expert.

Tragically, most human deaths are the result of untreated bites. Timely treatment, including wound cleaning, vaccines and occasionally rabies immunoglobulin, are required for people exposed to rabies. Unfortunately, even though the best post-exposure treatment systems are available, many people do not seek treatment, either because they are not aware of what’s available, or because they are too far away from support. The administration of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is urgent and must be done as soon as possible after a bite, lick or scratch.

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Published on: Monday, September 27, 2021, 04:33 PM IST
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