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Observing World Rabies Day 2021 - History, Symptoms, & Prevention

World Rabies Day is a global awareness campaign organized by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, a non-profit organization headquartered in the USA. The day is a United Nations Observance Day endorsed by various international human health and veterinary health organizations, including the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pan American Health Organization.

 

World Rabies Day is held every year on September 28th on the death anniversary of Louis Pasteur. He managed to develop the first effective vaccine against rabies. World Rabies Day focuses on raising awareness about the impact of rabies on animals and humans, offering necessary information, and advice on how the disease and its related risk can be prevented. The day also focuses on increasing support advocacy for enhancing efforts in controlling rabies. 

 

1. History 

 

World’s first rabies day campaign started on September 8th, 2007, as a partnership between CDC and Alliance for Rabies Control, co-sponsored by the WHO, World Organization for Animal Health, and Pan American Health Organization. The association was brought in to focus attention on a neglected disease. 

 

In just three years of honoring World Rabies Day, in 2009, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control calculated that approximately 100 countries were now observing the day and were made aware of the disease and its prevention. Moreover, 100 million people globally were educated about rabies, and more than 3 million dogs were vaccinated during those three years as a part of the campaign. 

 

World Rabies Day - Logo 

 

The official logo for World Rabies Day features a globe in the colors green and blue. The green in the globe is shaped in the form of a bat on the left, with a human in the center and a dog on the right. The words “World Rabies Day” and the event’s month, date, and year are typed out in black on the outer part of the globe. These elements are all kept within a black ring, which completes the logo of this day of observance. 

 

Global Problem

 

 

Rabies is currently responsible for agonizing the lives of over 59,000 humans every year, including their unfortunate demise. Of this figure, every year, rabies is responsible for 40% of children developing symptoms and dying. Most of these people are from poor rural communities of Africa and Asia. They are far away from the reach of correct medical and veterinary services. In addition to this, millions of dogs and other animals suffer from the symptoms every year and die because of the disease and other in discriminatory factors against them, often prompted due to the disease. 

 

Deaths from rabies are unnecessary, and rabies is a preventable disease. This means we do have safe and effective vaccines globally to protect both humans and animals from rabies. 

 

2. Signs and Symptoms of rabies 

 

 

Following exposure to the rabies virus, the onset of symptoms can take anywhere from a week to over a year to occur. The average time taken here can be between 1-12 weeks among people. The total time taken depends on how long the virus travels from the wound site to the person’s brain when the symptoms begin. 

 

This is also based on various factors, like the place of the infection and its distance from the brain, the amount of virus that has entered the body, the size of the infected animal, etc. 

 

So, if a large person is bitten on the foot, the onset of symptoms can be more prolonged when compared to the spread in a child bitten on their face. 

 

Rabies Symptoms 

 

1. In people 

The initial symptoms of rabies are similar to those of flu. It can start with a headache, fever, and a general feeling of not feeling well. As the disease progresses, the person can also begin experiencing delirium, abnormal behavior, and hallucinations. The onset of the infamous hydrophobia and foam formation around the mouth can also start in a few days of the flu-like symptoms. It is necessary to know that rabies symptoms can greatly vary, which means not every person will have the same symptoms. 

 

2. In animals 

Rabies symptoms and signs in animals are very similar to those in humans. Symptoms show up as a change in their behavior. They will either turn aggressive, or they become highly tame and calm. If the animal is already quiet, they tend to become aggressive. Animals also show signs of paralysis or partial paralysis in some cases, with abnormal vocalization; for example, a dog can start barking strangely than it used to. The animals also start attacking inanimate objects or start biting rocks, trees, and other things. They develop hydrophobia and start developing foam around their mouth. 

 

However, rabies in animals is difficult to diagnose without testing it in the laboratory as signs can vary in different cases and animals. One thing is for sure, once symptoms of rabies begin, it will eventually result in their death. 

 

3. Eliminating Rabies 

 

The good news here is that rabies is 100% preventable. There are tools and scientific methods that can help eliminate rabies without going through extensive suffering, financial burdens, or loss of life. These methods and tools include effective vaccines for dogs to stop the spread at the source. There are also effective treatments for humans who are exposed to infected dogs/animals. 

 

What can you do to eliminate rabies?

People with pets as dogs or cats can ensure that their pets are wholly vaccinated against rabies. What also needs to be done is to ensure their vaccinations are up to date. This is the best way to prevent rabies in and around your community. Gradually, this helps eliminate the disease. 

 

However, even when people do not own a cat or a dog, they can still help prevent rabies. 

 

Anyone can spread the correct information to raise awareness about the disease among their family and friend circle. They can take to social media to spread the word and educate others in their community by sharing resources on September 28th on World Rabies Day. 

 

1. Prevention in humans 

Rabies is 99% fatal in humans once the symptoms begin to appear. It is still wholly preventable. 

 

The best way to prevent rabies from spreading to humans is to avoid being bitten by strange animals or animals whose vaccine status is unknown. It is for this very reason that our resources and material are based on animal bite prevention. If animals do not bite people, this can significantly reduce the number of rabies-related deaths in humans globally. 

 

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis 

 

If you happen to get bitten, licked, or scratched by an unknown animal, you should seek medical treatment immediately and receive post-exposure prophylaxis. This is irrespective of the severity of the wound since even the most minor scratch mark can break your skin and result in an infection spreading in your body. Leave it up to your health care provider to determine if you are at risk of rabies or not. 

 

Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis consists of three significant steps to ensure that you are safe and prevent any unnecessary damage to your body. 

 

Step 1 

Immediately and rigorously wash the bitten/licked/scratched area with soap and water for up to 15 minutes. This helps flush the virus particles off your wound, which reduces the likelihood of you developing an infection.  

 

Step 2

Step 1 alone is not enough. You should also seek immediate medical attention at your nearest health facility. Ensure that you mention your exposure to unknown/unvaccinated animals at the center and you are concerned about getting infected with rabies. Your health care provider will do a risk assessment based on their knowledge and expertise to determine if you require a vaccine or any particular rabies antibodies to help fight the infection. All of this will be based on the severity of your world and the history of your exposure to such animals. You must seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure you are saving yourself from all the horrifying suffering and save your life. 

 

Step 3

If your health care provider deems it necessary to offer you a course of vaccine or rabies antibodies, you should complete the entire course of such vaccine. This means you will be required to return to the health care center to get additional vaccine doses. This is essential since just one vaccine is not enough to ensure your safety against rabies. 

 

World Rabies Day 2021 - Rabies: Facts, not fear.

 

 

The theme for World Rabies Day 2021 is “Rabies: Facts, not Fear.” The theme was selected in light of the ongoing global pandemic - Covid-19. The pandemic has raised plenty of doubts and misconceptions about various diseases, their spread, and vaccinations in general. Due to this, people are hesitant in the context of the Covid-19 vaccine in multiple countries. People are afraid to get vaccinated. 

 

As far as rabies is concerned, fears, misconceptions, and misinformation have been present for many years abundantly. This fear dates back to hundreds of years. For the same reason, the theme for World Rabies Day 2021 focuses on sharing facts about rabies and not spreading fear surrounding it. This encourages people to not rely on myths and misinformation; instead, they rely on facts and education about the disease. 

 

Facts are essential for raising awareness for the disease, preventing rabies, and having animals vaccinated. Facts also help in educating people about the dangers of rabies and its prevention. Without facts, we will never have the correct data to make the right decisions and inform people of the severe nature of rabies. We will never be able to advocate its elimination and eradication, and the burden of rabies will remain unknown. This burden might as well result in tens of thousands of people and animals dying every year. 

 

Therefore, the theme for this year emphasizes using facts correctly to raise awareness and educate people about rabies, which is fatal yet completely preventable. 

 

The word ‘Fear’ in the theme has three meanings. First, it relates to general fear caused by rabies; fear people experience when encountering rabid animals, and the fear that people live within communities plagued by such rabid animals. 

 

The word also relates to the fear people experience when they are infected with rabies. 

 

The last meaning of fear here relates to the fear caused by “fake news” and myths spread about rabies, making people afraid of vaccinations. This fear also discourages people from getting their animals vaccinated and sterilized, making others believe in the inefficacy of treatments available for the disease. 

 

How can you be involved?

The theme for this year is designed in such a manner to encourage more and more people to participate in various ways, making World Rabies Day 2021 an annual event everyone can be a part of. 

 

Here are a few ways you can consider becoming a part of the World Rabies Day 2021:

 

Learn facts, not fear 

 

People can start by being educated about the disease. Use suitable sources to educate yourself and those around you about rabies, its consequences, preventive measures, etc. You can learn the correct facts and share the knowledge with others. You can also try to become a certified rabies educator by getting a Rabies Educator Certificate. People can also undertake a profession-specific training course. 

 

Use facts, not fear.

 

People can contribute to gathering evidence to eliminate rabies based on scientific evidence, knowledge, and facts. You can use the information you learn from certified training courses and suitable online sources to advocate a better control for rabies in and around your community. The measures here can range from calling for a mass dog vaccination to advocating humane management of the dog population instead of ineffective dog culling. 

 

Spread facts, not fear 

 

People can also get involved by spreading awareness, accurate facts, and information about rabies and dispelling misconceptions, myths, and doubts. You can do so by spreading the word around through social media, brochures, and meetings in and around your community. 

 

Final Words

Rabies remains a significant health concern for many countries around the world. Over 99% of human deaths due to rabid animals happen in developing countries, with 95% of those deaths occurring in countries like Asia and Africa. People and animals across the world are at severe risk of contracting rabies. 

 

Let’s pledge to educate and spread the correct information this World Rabies Day 2021 among people at risk. Work together with organizations and public health departments to curb this neglected disease. 

 

 

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