PAHO Requests Member States to Strengthen Prevention and Control Activities to Prevent Rabies

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Minister Hon. Rita Bourne-Gumbs

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Collective Preventive Services (CPS) department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, says even though chances of a human rabies infection is very small, pet owners are advised to make sure their dog gets a rabies vaccination, as this is the best strategy to prevent human cases.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in a June epidemiological alert recommends to Member States of the Americas to strengthen prevention and control activities of the canine variant rabies virus in order to reduce the occurrence of human cases.

Member States are also reminded to ensure access to the vaccines and post-exposure prophylaxis for exposed persons.

While human rabies transmitted by dogs is in the process of being eliminated in the Americas, some countries in the Region continue to register human rabies cases transmitted by dogs.

Since the beginning of 2014 to date, the following human cases of canine origin rabies were reported: six cases in Bolivia, three cases in Haiti, two cases in Guatemala, one case in Brazil, and one case in the Dominican Republic.

In addition, canine rabies cases have been reported in places that had previously not recorded cases such as northern Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and in areas declared free of canine rabies more than 10-years ago, such as in a part of Peru, the Arequipa region.

This is the first occurrence of the reintroduction of canine rabies in an area that was previously officially declared free of canine rabies.

Rabies is caused by the rabies virus, which belongs to the Rhabdoviridae family, within the Lyssavirus genus, which infects domesticated and wild animals and is transmitted to humans through rabies infected saliva (through skin and mucous membranes, by bites and scratches).