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Rabies surveillance: what gets measured gets done

7 February 2023


Watch this United Against Rabies webinar to learn more about the importance of rabies surveillance, and how the rabies community can contribute to improving rabies data.

Rabies is one of the deadliest diseases known to humanity but in practice remains almost invisible. Chronic underreporting of both human and animal rabies cases means the disease is often hidden from the public, hidden from decision makers and hidden from potential investors in rabies control.

For nearly a decade the world has relied on a single estimate of annual human rabies deaths (around 59, 000) which was produced through scientific modelling. This remains the only credible figure available because almost no rabies data is officially shared with WHO through its Global Health Observatory, even from countries that have national rabies plans.

Rabies data span the One Health spectrum, with human deaths and human vaccination data collected by Ministries of Health, while animal rabies cases and animal vaccination data is collected by Veterinary Authorities. This leads to challenges in implementing effective surveillance and data-sharing.

However effective surveillance is critical for informing decision-making and implementing effective rabies control practices. The reporting of rabies data is also crucial for improving advocacy for rabies control and empowering communities where rabies remains a serious public health threat.