Taming rabies

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Science  20 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6322, pp. 238-242
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6322.238

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An estimated 59,000 people die from rabies around the world every year. Their horrible suffering—including convulsions, terror, and aggression—and the fact that many victims are children led the World Health Organization and others to announce a goal to eliminate rabies deaths worldwide by 2030. The plan calls for cheaper and faster treatment for people. But its long-term bet is on vaccinating domestic dogs, which cause more than 99% of infections. The challenges are enormous in sub-Saharan Africa, where poor countries can hardly pay for millions of dogs to be vaccinated, and their governments often have trouble organizing vaccination campaigns across vast rural areas. In pilot projects underway in Tanzania, Kenya, and a few other African countries, scientists are testing strategies for reaching and vaccinating dogs more efficiently and quantifying the economic benefits of potentially expensive national campaigns. For Africa as a whole, rabies elimination might cost between $800 million to $1.55 billion. The price could come down, however, from dog vaccine banks, for example, and other ways to make vaccines cheaper and more easily distributed.

  • * in Tanzania