LAHORE - Like other parts of the globe, World Rabies Day was observed across the country on Saturday for raising public awareness about rabies and its impact on humans and animals.

World Rabies Day theme this year is “Rabies: Understand it to Defeat it.”

Seminars, walks and camps for administering vaccine were arranged both at the government and private level for dissemination of necessary information and vaccination against the menace.  Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in warm-blooded animals. The disease can be transmitted from one species to another, such as from dogs to humans. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if postexposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

Every year, rabies claim more than 55,000 lives, many of whom are children bitten by rabies-infected dogs.

Community participation, education and public awareness are important elements of successful rabies control programmes, and mass vaccination of dogs is critical. Communities need to take responsibility for their dogs, prevent dog bites and know what to do when bitten.

More than 100 countries report cases of rabies in dogs putting people at risk. Vaccinating at least 70% of dogs breaks the cycle of transmission in dogs and to humans. Rabies programmes need to incorporate free-roaming and street dogs with options for dog population management.

Safe, efficacious and affordable dog rabies vaccines are available, and countries embarking on rabies elimination need easy access to quality-assured dog vaccines for vaccination campaigns and for outbreak management.

A person bitten by a rabid animal still has the chance to survive if the wound is cleaned immediately and thoroughly with plenty of water and soap and post-exposure prophylaxis is provided in time (a course of vaccines and, in severe cases, immunoglobulins). Preventive rabies vaccination can be given to people at high risk of exposure from domestic or wild animals, such as animal health workers, veterinarians or laboratory personnel, to protect them before they are exposed.

In Lahore, Institute of Public health arranged a seminar and an immunization camp to mark the day.

Addressing the participants, Dean IPH Prof Moaz Ahmed said that under-reporting of rabies also prevents mobilization of resources from the international community. He said that it occurs in more than 150 countries, and more than 55 000 people die of rabies every year mostly in Asia and Africa. 40% of people who are bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age. Dogs are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths. Wound cleansing and immunization within a few hours after contact with a suspect rabid animal can prevent rabies.

Prof Moaz added that every year, more than 15 million people worldwide receive a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the disease– this is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually. Potentially dog rabies threatens over 3 billion people in Asia and Africa where more than 95% of human deaths occur.