Rabies deaths, especially in Europe, are always headline news. The recent death of a young Norwegian woman, following a puppy bite, raised alarms about a rise in the disease. However, if you look closer at the story, the unfortunate victim was actually infected during a trip to the Philippines. Rabies in Europe remains very rare, and the good news is that rates are also declining across the world.

What is rabies?

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is passed on through the saliva of infected animals. It can be passed on by wild animals, such as raccoons, monkeys and bats, but the vast majority of cases, around 99% worldwide, result from dog bites from strays and domestic animals with little or no dog training. Left untreated, rabies is fatal and around 59,000 people a year die from rabies across the world, including 35,000 in Asia, 21,000 in Africa and just under 2,000 in Central America. There are rare cases in rural parts of the United States and very occasional cases in Europe.

How can you avoid rabies?

Rabies is a preventable and treatable disease if the right precautions are taken. If you are travelling to countries with a high rabies risk, you should arrange for vaccinations before you travel. You will need three doses, at around £55 each, and should have the course completed 21days before you leave.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while in these countries, you should thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical treatment immediately. The treatment required will depend on whether you were vaccinated or not prior to travel

Keeping your dog safe from rabies

One of the main reasons that Europe has remained largely rabies-free in recent years has been the strict control over movement of animals, particularly dogs, across its borders. If you want to take your dog on holiday to Europe, you must have them vaccinated against rabies in advance. This vaccination is part of the requirements for obtaining a Pet Passport and you will not be able to get one, or to travel with your dog, without arranging these jabs in advance.

Dog training

Even if they have been vaccinated, keeping your dog under control is still a vital part of avoiding exposure to rabies when you are abroad. Dogs are naturally curious about other dogs and wild animals, and without the right dog behaviour training, you will struggle to keep them away from these risks. A&T dog behaviour training courses can help you gain the level of control you need to keep your dog out of harm’s way, especially where the local strays have not undergone similar dog training.

What is the future for rabies?

The prevalence of rabies can be significantly reduced through vaccination, education and prompt treatment, and there has been significant progress in eradicating rabies in many parts of the world. In the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reduced rabies by over 95% in humans and 98% in dogs. Similarly, Bangladesh has seen a reduction of 50%. Funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also achieved positive results in the Philippines, South Africa and parts of Africa. The WHO has set an ambitious target of achieving a zero human death rate from rabies by 2030.