Rabies: Canine infection in Africa and Asia still the greatest threat

03/17/04

NB. Please note that if you are outside North America, the embargo for LANCET press material is 0001 hours UK Time 19 March 2004.

This week's Lancet seminar assesses the latest epidemiological data and future potential action to prevent one of the oldest and most-feared diseases: rabies.

Rabies is caused by lyssavirus infection. The disease cannot be cured, so attention remains focused on the epidemiology of the disease and prophylactic intervention such as animal and human vaccination. Mary and David Warrell from the University of Oxford, UK, discuss the importance of rabies-related viruses in Europe and prevention of this fatal disease worldwide.

Mary Warrell comments: "The greatest challenge to rabies control worldwide is the extent of the dog rabies epizootic [animal epidemic] in Asia and Africa. Control is hindered by ignorance of the varied ecology of the disease. A current WHO initiative in Asia may yield data to direct implementation of potentially highly efficient methods to control dog rabies and also ensure safer, more appropriate human prophylaxis".

She adds: "In Europe, moves to improve surveillance should reveal more detail of the distribution of EBLV [European bat lyssavirus] infection".

Source: Eurekalert & others

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