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World Rabies Day Looks To Eliminate Disease in South East Asia by 2020

September 28, 2015
Public Health

Rabies still kills nearly 25,000 people every year in South East Asia, accounting for 45% of all global deaths from the disease. To coincide with today’s World Rabies Day, the World Health Organisation has pledged to work towards eradicating rabies in the region by 2020.

Over 1.5 billion people in the area are at risk, while 4 million people are given rabies preventative vaccine annually mainly for dog bites. Approximately 40% of those affected are children between 5 and 15. The UK has been rabies free since 1922 but there are concerns that the relaxation of border controls to introduce the pet travel scheme three years ago will increase the chance of the disease making its way into the country once again.

A recent report by the Dogs Trust highlighted the problems associated with puppy smuggling from Eastern Europe; the number of dogs arriving from Lithuania and Hungary went up by 700% in the first two years of the new scheme.

Talking in the Manchester Evening News, Salford’s Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment Gena Merrett, believes public demand for cheap pets is partly to blame.  “This is a national issue which is placing a huge burden on local authorities and will require government action to tighten up the pet passport system to prevent smugglers abusing it,” She said. “Puppy smugglers are bringing in up to five puppies claiming they are pets. The pups are then sold on to unsuspecting members of the public, often via internet adverts, as British bred animals – and many quickly become ill because of poor hygiene at birth. The public demand for ‘cheap’ pets is unfortunately fueling this horrible trade.”