1.16 Can we prevent human rabies through human rabies prophylaxis instead?

Human rabies deaths can be substantially reduced by increasing the availability and accessibility of human anti-rabies vaccines and rabies immunoglobulin, as shown in this study. However, if this is the only strategy adopted, the financial costs are high and will continue to increase, since human vaccines are much more expensive than animal vaccines, and because the disease has not been eliminated at its source (in the reservoir animal species).

Adequate provision of human rabies biologicals, and appropriate training of medical professionals to avoid their unnecessary use are both essential when beginning a national fox rabies control programme. This strategy will help to prevent human rabies exposures and protect those involved in activities related to the control programme. At the beginning of the programme, an increase in the use of human biologicals should be expected due to improved accessibility, enhanced rabies surveillance, and mass media attention.

However, the eventual decline in human exposures and human deaths that occurs by reducing rabies in foxes through effective fox rabies control programs should lead to a decrease in the use of expensive biologicals for humans thus resulting in substantial savings for the public health sector.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012