World Rabies Day – Awareness & Prevention Efforts


World Rabies Day, created and coordinated by Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), is observed annually on 28 September in many countries, including the United States.

It was started in 2007 to raise awareness about rabies and bring together global partners to enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide.

Major health organizations around the world including the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization have pledged to promote rabies awareness and prevention and eliminate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

Rabies Global Statistics

Some alarming statistics:

  • Although rabies is a 100% preventable disease, more than 59,000 people around the world die annually from the disease.
  • There is one death every nine minutes worldwide.
  • Four out of 10 deaths are in children.

Education and Awareness

World Rabies Day highlights the importance of education and awareness to prevent rabies in an attempt to:

  • Ensure that dogs are kept vaccinated – as a reminder to dog owners, animal health professionals and local governments
  • Help people in need to seek and obtain post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) – through human health professionals and educators
  • Commit to the 2030 goal of eliminating dog-transmitted rabies deaths – with national governments putting resources into rabies elimination

Messages communicated include:

  • Importance of vaccines
  • How to prevent infection
  • How to prevent dog bites
  • How to treat bite wounds

Each year there are themes, such as “All for 1, One Health for all” (2023). 

Rabies: a Deadly Virus

Rabies spreads when the saliva of an infected animal – through a bite or otherwise – comes into contact with broken skin (which includes scabs) or the eyes, nose or mouth of another animal or person.

Once contracted it may affect the spinal cord and cause inflammation in the brain. However, growth starts in the muscle tissue before attacking the nervous system and spreading.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist who developed the first rabies vaccine.


Proven, cost-effective interventions include:

  • Awareness of rabies
  • Dog vaccination to stop the disease at its source
  • Access to affordable, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for people

Vaccination is the Best Prevention

Vaccines save animal and human lives.

Rabies is a 100% vaccine-preventable disease.

The public can help reduce the spread of rabies by vaccinating pets against rabies since vaccines are very effective. Keeping pets under control, teaching children not to play with wild animals and not trying to raise injured wildlife can reduce the incidence of rabies and rabies exposures. It is crucial to inform authorities when an animal is suspected of having the disease.

How Often Should Dogs Receive Vaccines?

Since dogs are the main source of human rabies death, rabies vaccination of dogs is the only companion animal vaccine required by law in most (but not all) states.

  • First Rabies Vaccination: 12 weeks
  • Second Rabies Vaccination: 16 weeks
  • Third and Future Rabies Vaccination: Annually

Dogs are responsible for up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans.

How Often Should Cats Receive Vaccines?

  • First Rabies Vaccination: 12 weeks
  • Second Rabies Vaccination: 9 months later
  • Third and Future Rabies Vaccination: Annually or as recommended by veterinarian

Most animals tolerate injections (under the skin at the nape of the neck) very well and generally there are no side effects. Drowsiness may be observed for a day or so and allergic reactions, although very rare, are treatable.

Vaccination of Pets (Dogs & Cats)

  • Pets (especially dogs) are the animals most in contact with people and are responsible for the majority of rabies cases
  • Consequently, most rabies control programs focus on dog vaccination



  • Report an animal that could be infected
  • Ensure your pets are vaccinated routinely
  • Tell others about the importance of vaccines
  • Stay away from an animal that could be infected
  • Keep your pets away from animals that may not be vaccinated
  • Educate children about the risks of rabies, how to avoid exposure and what to do in case they’re exposed


  • Handle an animal that could be infected
  • Dismiss animals that are behaving strangely
  • Try to capture an animal that could be infected


Especially if the animal is: unfamiliar to the victim, wild or acting strangely

  1. Stand still and hold still (don’t pull away).
  2. If you’re on the ground or have fallen down, roll into a ball by tucking your arms and legs and cover your head.
  3. Immediately wash wounds with soap, under running water, for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Go at once to the nearest clinic and consult a healthcare professional about treatment known as rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). If rabies is left untreated, the disease usually progresses from mild symptoms to coma and eventual death.
  5. Inform animal control services of the incident and where it occurred so they can try and find the animal.

Human deaths from rabies are the result of:

  • Lack of rabies education
  • Lack of access to rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)


Several countries have been declared rabies-free. Here are some of them:

  • Antarctica: Antarctica
  • Asia and the Middle East: Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan, Maldives and Singapore
  • Africa: Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Mayotte, Madeira Islands, Réunion and Saint Helena
  • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom
  • Americas: Argentina, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, Jamaica and Uruguay
  • Asia and the Middle East: Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan, Maldives and Singapore
  • Oceania: Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tahiti

New Zealand and Australia have never had rabies.

Related Articles

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Rabies: How It Spreads, The Signs & Why Vaccination Is Vital Read Now

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