BBC

LONDON

Greater effort needs to be put into vaccinating dogs against rabies in order to save lives, health experts say.

Up to 60,000 people die from the viral infection each year and it is almost always caught from dog bites. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control said mass vaccination could “make rabies history”. The organisation HealthforAnimals argued protecting dogs was the most cost-effective way to protect people.

Rabies is present on every continent except Antarctica, but the overwhelming majority of deaths are in Asia and Africa.

Once symptoms develop it is nearly always fatal - although there is a brief window after a bite during which a vaccine can prevent the infection becoming deadly. Around 40 percent of those who are bitten are under 15 years of age.

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, executive director of the global animal medicines association HealthforAnimals, told the BBC: “I don’t know if there’s a disease which is so easily preventable for so little money that affects so many people.”

He said vaccines were cheap and £5 ($8) could vaccinate 20 dogs for a year. The global economic cost is estimated to be £80bn ($124bn). Mr du Marchie Sarvaas said: “If you look at the economic perspective there’s a case to be made, from a human point of view a lot of lives being lost are certainly the case.

“The most cost-effective and efficient way to do it is to vaccinate dogs, but then you run into barriers - how much money people make available to buy vaccines, the logistics of getting vaccines into certain areas - it’s not easy.” A mass vaccination programme in Bangladesh has halved the number of human deaths since 2011.

Prof Louis Nel, executive director of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, argued: “We can make rabies history if international institutions invested more in mass canine vaccinations. “We know we can beat canine rabies if we vaccinate 70% of dogs.”

Small is beautiful, say South Koreans making plans to marry (5f)

Reuters

SEOUL

The night before their wedding, Kim Kwang-yoon and Cho Jin-oh were up until 2 a.m. with the bride’s mother, setting tables. Their marriage venue: a room in the basement of Seoul city hall, rented from the government for $60.

With South Korea’s average wedding expenditure last year at nearly $64,000, or about double that of the United States, more citizens are spurning lavish events for smaller functions as the economy slows, the age at marriage rises and parents nearing retirement have less money to splurge.

South Korean weddings are typically a show of status, with hundreds of guests and expensive gifts. The average expenditure, from a survey by wedding planner Duo, excludes the cost of housing, traditionally provided by parents. “I felt that if I don’t like getting invitations from people I don’t know very well, they would feel the same. I wished for my wedding to be celebrated by people I wanted there,” said Cho, 32. She and her 34-year-old husband paid the $10,000 cost of their recent wedding themselves.

Huge marriage expenses prompt more young people to delay marriage, and consequently children, worsening one of the world’s lowest birth rates in a population that is ageing the fastest in the industrialised world. To boost marriage rates from an all-time low in 2014, the government is renting out public buildings cheaply. The trend began to take off last year, spurred partly by celebrities, said Kim Jung-youl, an official of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Last month, movie stars Won Bin and Lee Na-young got married in a wheat field 150 km (93 miles) from Seoul, amid fewer than 50 guests. Kim and Cho, who sell indoor lighting online, saved on the venue and Cho’s wedding dress, bought online for $100, but a two-week honeymoon to Paris soaked up half their spending. “Weddings turned into lavish affairs because South Koreans were packing traditions from here and the West into one,” said Lee Sung-hee, a senior planner at Duo, the country’s largest matchmaking and wedding consultation company.

That is changing as the average age at marriage climbs. The small wedding trend also brings relief for parents, as South Koreans in their 50s and 60s are the most heavily-indebted in a country whose household debt ranks among the world’s highest. Half of Duo’s queries come from couples wanting small weddings, up nearly three times from 2008, Lee said, adding, “As couples to be married get older, they can stand up to conventional culture and their parents’ demands more easily.”