Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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World rabies day

World rabies day

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (288/07) issued by The Government News Network on 7 September 2007

Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds has today welcomed the launch of the first World Rabies Day on 8 September.

World Rabies Day aims to improve global awareness of rabies and how to prevent and control it, as well as support educational initiatives about rabies prevention, especially in areas of the world where the disease is prevalent.

The UK has had a system of quarantine for rabies-susceptible mammals for many years, and has also operated the Pet Travel Scheme since 2000, which allows certain animals including dogs and cats to enter the UK from a number of countries without the need for quarantine as long as they meet strict veterinary conditions.

Debby Reynolds said:

"I am pleased to welcome the inaugural World Rabies Day. All action taken to raise awareness of this disease must be supported.

"Much of Europe, including the UK, has been free of rabies for many years and the situation continues to improve in other European countries through wildlife vaccination programmes."

The UK's rabies import controls are currently under review to ensure that they are proportionate and sustainable when weighed against the risk posed to animals and humans. The initial findings and evidence from the review suggest that current controls may no longer be proportionate to the risk of rabies entering the UK. Further evidence from this review is currently being studied.

Notes to editors

1. The review of UK rabies import control policies was announced on 17 November 2005. The main aims of the review are to ensure that UK rabies import controls are proportionate and sustainable given that their primary purpose is to protect animal health and to inform the UK's response to the European Commission's review of certain requirements to EC Regulation 998/2003.

The European Commission is due to submit a report on their review to the European Parliament and Council later this year. Further information on the review of rabies import controls can be found at:

2. The independent veterinary risk assessments on rabies and other exotic diseases carried out as part of the UK review along with a summary of the responses to the stakeholder consultation can be found on the Defra website at

3. World Rabies Day was initiated by the Alliance for Rabies Control and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Further information can be found at:

4. Rabies is a fatal condition but it is preventable by vaccination. It is important for people who are at risk through their work or through travelling to countries where rabies is circulating in animals to seek advice on vaccination. Once clinical rabies develops, it is almost always fatal. Those few people who have survived the infection have suffered serious long-term disability.

The real challenge is that rabies is preventable yet 50,000 people a year die from it worldwide. The public health challenge is using the effective tools we have (ie vaccine) in developing countries where it is most needed.

If bitten in a country where rabies is present clean the wound thoroughly with soap and plenty of water and seek medical advice immediately. If a person has not had treatment in that country they should still seek medical advice immediately on return, even if the bite was weeks before.
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