An alarming 60,000 people die from rabies each year, according to a recent report from the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). Despite efforts to prevent the spread of the viral disease, the organization says 160 individuals lose their life every day due to complications from rabies.
The study is considered the first of its kind in investigating the impact of rabies in terms of deaths and economic costs in countries across the globe.
According to the Partners for Rabies Prevention Group, an organization under the GARC, economic losses incurred due to rabies amount to about $8.6 billion annually. While a substantial portion of this figure is derived from the cost of premature deaths, it also factors in the cost of anti-rabies vaccines for humans, lost income for animal bite victims and other expenses.
The researchers say that these high costs make people in low-income countries more susceptible to rabies.
The GARC report stated that, of the estimated 160 daily casualties from the disease, a large number of these cases come from Asia, accounting for 60 percent of deaths, while Africa has around 36 percent.
India, where poverty remains a leading concern, accounts for 35 percent of human deaths from rabies. This is higher than in any other country in the world.
Countries in Asia and Africa also have the lowest number of vaccinated dogs, making efforts to control the disease in these areas more difficult.
Experts assert that while rabies is 100 percent lethal, it is also 100 percent preventable. An effective way to do this is by having dogs vaccinated as soon as possible. Government health agencies can also provide their citizens with better access to human vaccines.
"Collaborative investments by medical and veterinary sectors could dramatically reduce the current large, and unnecessary, burden of rabies on affected communities," the authors of the report said. "Improved surveillance is needed to reduce uncertainty in burden estimates and to monitor the impacts of control efforts."
Dr. Katie Hampson of the University of Glasgow led the study presented in the GARC report. She said that the scope of the data they used ranged from surveillance reports of rabies cases to epidemiological data to the number of vaccines sold around the world. The information gathered allowed the researchers to present a more detailed output.
The GARC hopes that their report will help lower the number of casualties because of rabies.
"No one should die of rabies and we will continue to work together towards global rabies elimination," Professor Louis Nel, executive director of the GARC, said.
The GARC study is published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
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