Vaccinating Dogs Reduces Human Rabies

Rabies immune globulin and four doses of vaccine over two-weeks may cost $3,000

india dogs

For years, health experts around the world have debated the best strategy to reduce the impact of rabies. Specifically, in India, 20,000 people are estimated to die from rabies each year.

Most of these victims in India are children. Nearly all of the deaths occur after victims are bitten by rabid dogs. Victims often do not get treatment, either because they don’t know they’ve been infected, or don’t have the means to get to a clinic or to pay for treatment.

Now, a new study has identified a cost-effective way to reduce death due to rabies.

Researchers found that over the course of five years, vaccinating 200,000 stray dogs a year would reduce rabies incidence by 90 percent. They estimated this strategy would cost about $1.27 million annually.

The research, led by a scientist at the University of Maryland School of Maryland (UM SOM) Center for Vaccine Development (CVD).

Meagan C. Fitzpatrick, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow said, “Our goal was to maximize the impact of vaccination and/or sterilization on human health outcomes in the real world, where policy makers operate within cost constraints.”

India accounts for more than a third of the world’s rabies deaths. Stray dogs are common and comprise approximately 42 percent of the total canine population in Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Fitzpatrick and her colleagues from the Yale School of Public Health, the Public Health Foundation of India, the Harvard School of Public Health, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined a range of strategies aimed at stray dogs, including vaccination as well as combined vaccination and sterilization.

These researchers determined a strategy of vaccination without sterilization was the most efficient way to reduce death from rabies.

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Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is usually transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal. In the U.S., most rabies cases involve wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, eventually causing disease in the brain and death.

If people are treated within two or three days after being bitten, the human rabies vaccine is highly effective, and victims usually survive.

As a result, rabies deaths are extremely rare in the U.S. Being bitten by a rabid animal is also very rare in the U.S. because nearly all domesticated animals are vaccinated.

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal, or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, should clean the wound and see a doctor immediately. The doctor will determine if they need to be vaccinated.

A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine - one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh and fourteenth days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose.

A person who has been previously vaccinated should get two doses of rabies vaccine, one immediately, and another vaccination on the third day.

Although the cost varies, a course of rabies immune globulin and four doses of vaccine given over a two-week period typically exceeds $3,000.

The authors of this study declare no conflict of interest.