press release
Published: 28 September 2018

World Rabies Day - What is Surrey doing to tackle this devastating disease?

By Natasha Meredith

Researchers from the University of Surrey are at the forefront of the fight to reduce instances of the deadly disease, rabies. Although its origins can be traced back to ancient times, nearly 85 per cent of the world’s population are still at risk of contracting this devastating illness.

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Getty Images

Led by Dr Dan Horton, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Virology and Dr Victor Del Rio Vilas, Lecturer in Veterinary Epidemiology from the School of Veterinary Medicine, the team have been conducting in depth research into current threat levels of rabies to European borders, improving control programmes and how they are implemented.

Surrey’s expertise in this area is recognised in the international arena and the team have linked up with the World Health Organisation, World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations, and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control to help implement a strategic plan to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies by 2030.

"Rabies is one of the oldest recognised ‘zoonotic’ diseases, (transmitted from animals to people) and it is important that the veterinary community get involved in controlling the disease. Our work here at Surrey understanding the spread of the disease in animal reservoirs is a key part of planning control strategies,” said Dr Horton.

Latest figures show that nearly 60,000 people worldwide die from rabies each year, approximately one person every nine minutes. Evidence shows that vaccinating dogs, the main carriers of rabies, will control the disease and drastically reduce the burden of disease in people.

Dr Del Rio, added: “Most dog owners in this part of the world probably don’t think much of rabies. Some appear surprised that canine rabies still exits after being eliminated from the UK more than 100 years ago. Many countries are going now through the challenges of rabies control and elimination. We at Surrey aim to support their efforts.”

Emma Taylor, herself a graduate of the University of Surrey, will be working on the project as part of her PhD studies. “My PhD will combine ecological, environmental and population dynamic models in to simulate the disease spread in real time. This will develop our understanding of the disease and inform existing health policies.”

Raising awareness is a key part of prevention and control. World Rabies day, on Saturday 28 of September, is an annual global day of action and awareness for rabies prevention, created and coordinated by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).

Kim Doyle, Chief Operating Officer of the Global Alliance for Rabies control, said: “We welcome the important contribution that the University of Surrey is making towards rabies control. Only by working together can we achieve the goal of zero human deaths from dog mediated rabies by 2030.”

See the work undertaken by the World Health Organization.

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