The official launch of End Rabies Now

We can eliminate the world's deadliest infectious disease by 2030, says new rabies campaign

A new global campaign to eliminate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies world-wide by 2030 is being launched today (24 February) in London.

The End Rabies Now campaign is calling on donor countries and international agencies to earmark more funding for dog vaccinations in their global health spending programmes. Vaccinating dogs is the most effective way of eliminating human deaths from rabies. Around 99% of human rabies is transmitted by dogs.

Every year, around 59,000 people die from canine-mediated rabies – or 160 people a day, half of whom are children. Once symptoms start to show, it is 99.9% fatal. It is a horrific way to die. And yet, it is entirely preventable if there were more investment in mass dog vaccination programmes.

The 2030 target is achievable if national governments from donor countries make a commitment now to safeguard funding specifically for dog vaccinations in endemic areas.

The launch for the campaign is being held in the House of Lords with guest speaker Major Levison Wood (Walking the Himalayas, Walking the Nile – Channel 4, Hodder & Stoughton) and is being hosted by Lord Trees, a former President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Lord Crisp, a former Chief Executive of the National Health Service.

The campaign is an initiative of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) which has been working with national governments of endemic countries in order to help improve rabies control measures. However, endemic countries will need the help of donor countries to meet the 2030 elimination target.

Other campaign partners include the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and World Animal Protection, which has led dog vaccination programmes in Bangladesh, Zanzibar, Philippines and China, protecting hundreds of thousands of dogs from being culled.

The WHO classes rabies as a "Neglected Tropical Disease". In June 2015, the G7 Group of governments expressed their intention to direct increased resources and attention to neglected tropical diseases. In September 2015, the United Nations summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to end the epidemics of neglected tropical diseases by 2030. In December 2015, The WHO along with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), supported by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) agreed on forming a new global framework to achieve the strategic vision of zero deaths from dog mediated rabies by 2030 worldwide.

Lord Trees who is co-hosting the launch said, "50 years ago as a student I learnt that the key to controlling human rabies is controlling dog rabies. It is time we got on with it and vaccinated dogs to eliminate this terrible human disease which every year kills four times as many people as the Ebola outbreak of 2014."

Prof. Louis Nel, the Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control said, "This horrible disease is fully preventable and completely unnecessary. It is our social responsibility to end the ongoing and tragic neglect of this disease right now. Dog rabies belongs to the history books. "

Steve McIvor, CEO at World Animal Protection, said: "Mass killing dogs in response to rabies is often done in inhumane ways and is ineffective. There is no evidence to show that mass killing of dogs reduces their numbers in the long term, or has an effect on rabies transmission."

Major Levison Wood said, "It makes sense to focus on prevention. If you are someone living in remote and impoverished communities, prevention is effectively the only cure. That is why I think the End Rabies Now campaign is so important. I would urge you all to support the appeal for more dog vaccinations."