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3.2.3 Why does rabies need to be a notifiable disease?

Diseases like rabies are highly infectious and severe, and affect multiple sectors (domestic animals, wildlife conservation, public health and livestock economies).Therefore it is important to ensure that they do not spread. When rabies is notifiable in a country, surveillance data can be collected thus providing better estimates of the number of rabies cases and a more accurate evaluation of the rabies burden in an area.

Rabies needs to be reported so that infected animals can be swiftly identified, isolated and removed. This can help to reduce the risk of animals and humans across the country contracting the disease. In the case of farm animals, this makes individual farms more profitable and keeps compensation costs low (in countries where this is applicable).

Surveillance data will also provide public health professionals with critical information to make informed decisions about saving human lives. For instance, in a number of countries notification is used by health authorities to investigate possible exposures and organise post-exposure prophylaxis, quarantine and other disease containment measures.

Rabies reporting and notification are also of value in the rapid identification of foci and the implementation of control measures if needed. Surveillance of human and animal cases includes reporting of suspect cases (based on the history and clinical symptoms/signs) as well as collection of samples for laboratory confirmation.

Surveillance measures should also include reporting of human exposures to suspect rabid animals, and post-exposure vaccine doses administered. See section 5.2 for more information on rabies surveillance strategies.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012