Eliminating human rabies deaths: rabies as a disease and a global burden

Published on August 31, 2020   26 min

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I'm delighted to have been invited to give this presentation today, and by way of introduction, my name is Sarah Cleveland. I'm a Professor of Comparative Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow in the UK. Much of my own research has focused on the epidemiology of rabies, particularly in East Africa. The subject of my presentation today will be to describe progress towards the elimination of human rabies deaths.
Just a little bit about the history of rabies, because rabies has indeed a very long history ever since people have been writing about rabies. The first record appears many thousands of years ago in the Eshnunna code, and one of these laws explicitly deals with the subject of mad dogs and prescribes what the owner of a rabid dog must pay compensation if the dog bites a person. The link between human rabies and the bite of a mad dog has also been recognized for a very long time. It's long been known that the disease is fatal and incurable. This has actually led to many superstitions and presumed remedies. In fact, many of the elders described one cure which was to insert in the wound, ashes of hairs from the tail of the dog that inflicted the bite, and that lives on still today in our expression, hair of the dog, which refers to an equally dubious hangover remedy.
Here is a brief introduction to some of the important features of rabies. Rabies, the disease itself is caused by viruses and the genus Lyssavirus. These are bullet-shaped virus particles and there are several different viruses within this genus have all of which can cause the disease. The disease itself is an acute progressive encephalomyelitis. That is a disease of the brain and the nervous system. It is a fatal disease; it has the highest case fatality of any disease. Once the clinical signs appear, death is virtually always the outcome, but it is 100 percent preventable. Much of the subject of this presentation we will be discussing these preventive measures. All mammals can be infected by rabies and affected by rabies. They can all show signs of the disease, and they can potentially all transmit infection. But, the vast majority of human deaths, more than 99 percent of human rabies deaths worldwide are caused by domestic dogs.

Eliminating human rabies deaths: rabies as a disease and a global burden

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