Global Report: 59 Thousand Deaths Annually Due to Rabies


A global study on canine rabies, published on 16 April 2015, has found that 160 people die every single day from the disease.

The multi-author study, by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control’s Partners for Rabies Prevention Group is the first study to consider the impact in terms of deaths and the economic costs of rabies across all countries. Even though the disease is preventable, the study says that around 59,000 people die every year of rabies transmitted by dogs.

The study also shows that annual economic losses because of the disease are around 8.6 billion US dollars, mostly due to premature deaths, but also because of spending on human vaccines, lost income for victims of animal bites and other costs.

The study is an essential step towards improved control and eventual elimination of this disease as it provides an understanding of the actual burden which helps researchers to determine and advocate for the resources needed to tackle the fatal disease.

The study was led by Dr Katie Hampson, from the University of Glasgow and it estimated the impact of canine rabies and the extent of the control efforts in every country in the world. The amount of data used in this study, from surveillance reports to epidemiological study data to global vaccine sales figures, is far greater than ever analyzed before, allowing a more detailed output.

The study finds that the poorest countries are in the greatest risk of the canine rabies; the countries in the sub-Saharan Africa have the highest death rate (per 100,000 people). Although the highest number of fatalities in single country comes from the country in Asia: India. On its own, India accounts to 20,000 human deaths annually from the disease, that is 35% of human rabies deaths, more than any other country.

One reason of these statistics in Africa and India is the lack of vaccination of dogs that is necessary to control the disease. Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective way to control rabies; Rabies is close to 100% fatal, but it is also almost 100% preventable. The countries that have invested most in dog vaccination are the ones where human deaths from the disease have been virtually eliminated. This needs to be supplemented by improving access to human vaccines.

According to the report, this One Health approach to eliminating deaths due to this disease, with collaboration between the human and animal health sectors, can save many lives and significantly reduce the burden on vulnerable economies. The study also emphasizes that reporting systems are fundamental to rabies elimination, to monitor and assess the success of prevention efforts.