ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A groundbreaking study on canine rabies discovered nearly 59,000 people die from the virus every year. Researchers equates these findings to 160 deaths each day and a worldwide economic toll of about $8.6 billion a year.
The study, published in the Public Library of Science, is the first to estimate the cost of rabies in dogs and how countries around the world are trying to control it.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classify a rabies infection as “very rare,” estimating 90 percent of all animal cases reported occur in wildlife. The CDC notes that before 1960, the majority of cases were discovered in domesticated animals.
The report found the disease hit poorer areas of the globe the hardest. Although the United States as a whole would not fit this category, statistics can show what techniques work and which ones don’t, said Steve Barnes, a dog bite injury attorney at the law offices of Cellino & Barnes.
“When you vaccinate, you’re not only protecting your dog, you’re also protecting your family,” Barnes said. “It’s the number one way to avoid the spread of rabies and protect your family from a potential lawsuit.”
Researchers concluded poorer countries often did not invest enough resources into dog vaccinations and as a result, some nations experienced more than 20,000 rabies-related deaths in one year.
“The scary part is that rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated,” Barnes said. “The good news is it’s almost 100 percent preventable as well.”
The global report recommended dog vaccination as the most cost-effective way of saving lives. In countries like the United States and Canada, rabies-related deaths have nearly disappeared completely and researchers attribute that to an increased access to healthcare, human vaccines and a large investment in dog vaccination.
“Dogs sometimes bite and these results can be extremely painful and sometimes disfiguring,” Barnes said. “Proper training and care of your pets can help minimize these injuries and getting your dog vaccinated should be your first priority.”