HANOI, Sept. 29 ((Xinhua) -- Around 100 people die annually from rabies in Vietnam with more than 90 percent of the cases caused by unvaccinated dogs, said the UN agencies in Vietnam in a press release issued in north Vietnam's Son La Province on Sunday.
Over the past decade, the number of rabies deaths has been on the rise in Vietnam, from 34 in 2003 to a peak of 131 in 2007, said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) offices in Vietnam.
Rabies is considered as a neglected disease that largely affects vulnerable populations including the rural poor who do not have adequate access to information and health services. All human rabies cases reported thus far in the country in 2013 have been fatal primarily due to failure to seek post exposure prophylaxis.
In Vietnam, the majority of rabies cases occur in the northern and hard-to-reach mountainous provinces. The main reasons for the escalating number of human rabies cases over the past few years include low public awareness about rabies and its preventive measures, poor management of dogs, large numbers of stray and unvaccinated dogs. Moreover, many people who were bitten by suspected rabid dogs did not get post exposure prophylaxis, and there is a lack of resources for rabies prevention and control.
"We have all the means necessary to eliminate rabies but we need a sustained and coordinated effort to ensure that vulnerable populations know how to protect themselves from the disease. With political commitment at all levels, education, dog vaccination, and increased awareness of wound management and post exposure rabies vaccines, we can save lives," Dr. Bae Jongha, FAO Representative, and Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Representative in Vietnam, stated jointly in the press release.
Recently, the Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Ministry of Health jointly signed a Circular 16 dated May 27, 2013 providing guidelines for coordinated prevention and control of zoonotic diseases. The circular mandates that the animal and human health sectors coordinate and collaborate closely to address key zoonotic diseases including rabies.
To achieve the goal of rabies elimination by 2020, as described in the national rabies prevention and control program, it requires muti-sectoral effort towards One Health approach, a strong commitment of local authorities in supporting the poor, ethnic minority groups and children under 6 years of age in accessing rabies vaccination as well as raising people's awareness in applying preventive measures against rabies both in animals and humans, Dr. Nguyen Thu Thuy, deputy director of Animal Health Department, and Dr. Tran Dac Phu, deputy director of General Department of Preventive Medicine, jointly said.
Although rabies is 100 percent preventable, approximately one person dies every 10 minutes from the disease, bringing the total fatality to an estimated 55,000 worldwide each year.