Vietnam sets the target to control rabies caused by dogs and cats and eliminate deaths from this disease by 2030, according to a draft national program for rabies prevention during the 2022-30 period.
At a virtual conference jointly held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health to mark World Rabies Day 2021 (September 28), Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Xuan Tuyen said that rabies was still one of the deadliest infectious diseases in Vietnam, besides the measles outbreak in 2014 and the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the past five years, about 400 people have died from rabies across the country. This disease can be fully prevented by injecting rabies vaccine to dogs and cats and providing timely medical care for people bitten by animals, Tuyen said, adding that 67 people died from rabies in 24 provinces in Vietnam last year.
Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen said rabies remains one of the deadliest endemic infectious diseases in Vietnam. Photo: VNA
Although rabies was better controlled in the 2017-2021 period, around 79 people die from the disease each year and more than 500,000 people are bitten by dogs and cats, resulting in preventive medical treatment costs of over VND3.8 trillion (US$166.5 million).
“Lack of vaccination is the leading cause of death from rabies. Rabies is dangerous but can be prevented by vaccinating animals and people," the deputy minister stressed.
The vaccination coverage for dogs increased from 38.5% in 2016 to 49.2% in August 2021 but the current large pack of dogs (7.5 million) nationwide still poses a high risk for rabies outbreaks in the future, Tuyen noted.
According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien, with a total of 7.5 million pet dogs nationwide, the risk of rabies remains very high in the near future. Therefore, localities should pay attention to the vaccination of dogs and providing preventive treatment for people bitten by dogs or who are suspected of having rabies.
“With the remarkable efforts of the two ministries, along with the local governments and international organizations’ support, Vietnam had been implementing measures to prevent rabies nationally,” Tien said.
At the conference, leaders of the two ministries called on the community to share knowledge, raise awareness, boost rabies prevention practices, and increase effective cooperation toward the 2030 goal.
Fighting rabies by vaccination
Rabies is a severe acute infectious disease caused by the rabies virus, which is transmissible from animals to humans. According to WHO, rabies infections have been recorded in 150 nations and territories, claiming 59,000 lives every year. Up to 95% of fatalities from rabies are from Asia and Africa. Rabies infects 29 million people every year, costing US$8.6 billion in post-infection treatments.
Free-roaming dogs are a source of rabies transmission. Photo: Minh Thuan
“Dog management and vaccination is the most important action to stop rabies transmission between dogs, and from dogs to humans. A person bitten by a dog needs to get an immediate and complete vaccine against rabies. Vaccinating dogs is the most costly-effective and sustainable way to save lives from rabies,” Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga, former director of the Preventive Medicine Department under the Ministry of Health, told The Hanoi Times.
Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam, has told media that targeting high-risk areas in the country is critical to achieving zero by 2030.
“Strengthening risk awareness; promoting dog vaccination and dog management; ensuring public trust, accessibility, availability and affordability on anti-rabies vaccination for humans; and improving financial and human resources are our weapons in the fight against rabies,” he highlighted.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with One Health partners, have jointly carried out activities to strengthen the commitment of all levels of government in the prevention and control of rabies; enhance inter-sectoral collaboration among health, agriculture, education, and mass organizations.
Moreover, the ministries have enhanced communication activities to achieve the goal of improving dog management and vaccination, ensuring that people bitten by dogs are immediately vaccinated, and reducing the number of rabies deaths towards the elimination of rabies in Vietnam by 2030.
This year marks the 13th annual observance of World Rabies Day since the governments across the world collectively responded to the issue, bringing together relevant sectors, and engaging local, national stakeholders and the global community in the fight against rabies.