On Friday September 28th 2018, the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries joins the global community in highlighting World Rabies Day. World Rabies Day is part of a global campaign to help prevent the spread of the most fatal disease in the world. This day of action and awareness for rabies prevention is commemorated annually on September 28th and is facilitated by the international charity, Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). The theme for this year, “Share the message. Save a life”, reflects the fundamental principle that by increasing awareness about rabies we can all play a role in saving the lives of thousands of people and animals.
Rabies is 100% preventable but continues to cause death and suffering in people and animals. Every year, about 60,000 humans die from rabies infection worldwide. More than 95% of human cases of rabies are due to bites from infected dogs. In 2015, at the global conference on rabies elimination, a goal of zero human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030 was established. Renewed global calls were made for collaboration of medical and veterinary services towards this goal. In Jamaica, whereas there has never been any reported case of rabies, sensitization of the public is important. This is seen as one of our ‘One Health’ mandates. This is one of the main reasons to increase our vigilance to ensure that animals, especially dogs, must never be smuggled into the country. Jamaica remains one of the few rabies-free countries in the world.
What is rabies and where is it found?
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of mammals, including humans. The virus is particularly present in the saliva and brain of infected animals and is usually transmitted by animal bites and scratches. This transmission occurs via the saliva of infected animals, most often infected dogs. The virus then spreads to the nervous system and eventually to the brain causing inflammation. The signs of rabies in animals include aggression or confusion, abnormal behaviour, excessive salivation, difficulty eating or drinking, weakness, paralysis and eventual death.
Rabies occurs in approximately two-thirds of countries worldwide. In the Caribbean, rabies is endemic in 10 countries and territories. Dogs are the main source of rabies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic where most human cases within the region originate. Animal rabies is more frequent in the Caribbean with bats and mongoose being additional potential reservoirs for the rabies virus. The vampire bat is usually involved in transmission on the continental Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago, whereas, transmission by mongoose occurs in Puerto Rico, Grenada and Cuba.
What can be done to prevent rabies?
Pre-exposure vaccination is recommended for persons at high risk of exposure to the rabies virus (e.g. veterinarians, wildlife officers, laboratory workers and people who enter bat caves). However, anyone who is bitten by an animal suspected of having rabies, even if pre-vaccinated should immediately flush the wound with running water and soap for at least 15 minutes, then seek medical care immediately to determine if further treatment is necessary.
Regionally, the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) continue to work towards the eradication of dog-mediated rabies (rabies transmitted by dogs) in the Americas by 2022. The main programme strategies are to strengthen surveillance, public awareness and dog vaccination against rabies. This programme has had considerable success since it started in 1983, and has reduced the prevalence of dog transmitted rabies in the Americas by approximately 97%. Wildlife rabies is more difficult to eliminate and focus will be on control of transmission to other animals and humans through animal vaccination, population control of these reservoirs and human prophylaxis.
Rabies is a priority disease of the Caribbean Animal Health Network, CaribVET, of which Jamaica is a member. As such, rabies awareness materials have been produced specifically for the Caribbean and the CaribVET has hosted diagnostic training and technical policy development workshops on rabies within the recent past.
The OIE continues to support all Member countries, including Jamaica in their efforts towards prevention and control of this globally significant zoonosis.
For more information please see:
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
GARC World Rabies Day Resources:
United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Welcome to the official website of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) has been charged with the responsibility of driving the integration of the production of primary agricultural produce along all the stages of the supply chain through to value added and facilitating full commercialization of outputs of the agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors.
We have, therefore, placed much energy and enthusiasm into the development of this website to provide timely information on the Ministry, our agencies and programmes.
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