A new study, published today in the journal PloS Neglected Tropical Diseases has given new insights into the spread of rabies in the Middle East, showing that the deadly disease regularly moves between countries in the region.
The international team of researchers including scientists from the University of Surrey and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, have mapped the spread of rabies in the region to help inform control methods.
Previous studies have demonstrated that rabies, a fatal disease transmitted by the bite or scratch from an infected animal, still kills approximately 60,000 people every year. Although some regions such as Western Europe are free from rabies, the disease is still endemic in many parts of the world. Surveillance in these endemic regions is crucial to controlling the disease and reducing the risk of re-introduction into rabies-free areas. However, this surveillance is often inadequate due to low public awareness or lack of resources.
"Understanding the spread of rabies is an important step in the control of the disease," said Dr Dan Horton from the University of Surrey's School of Veterinary Medicine.
"This study has uncovered regular movement of disease across borders in the region, emphasising the need for countries to work together to control this neglected disease.
"We need to increase awareness of rabies in the local population, so that they can take appropriate health precautions such as seeking medical attention if they get bitten. It is also important to improve understanding of the spread of the disease among key decision makers, so effective control policies can be implemented in animal reservoirs."
Professor Tony Fooks from the Animal and Plant Health Agency said: "A key feature of this study is the application of modern analytic techniques that are used to identify disease pathways and inform targeted interventions to prevent spread. International collaboration such as that demonstrated in this study is important to help quantify the burden of disease and ultimately improve awareness"
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Notes to Editors:
The United Kingdom remains free of rabies.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2013 had a total of 178 Member Countries. The OIE maintains permanent relations with 45 other international and regional organisations and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent. OIE Reference Laboratories are designated to pursue all the scientific and technical problems relating to a named disease or specific topic. (http://www.
The OIE Reference Laboratory for Rabies, led by Professor Tony Fooks, at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in the UK has a remit to undertake surveillance and formulate strategies to control rabies in rabies-endemic countries thereby reducing the possibility of rabies reoccurring in Europe, and in particular preventing a reintroduction of rabies in the UK.
About the University of Surrey
The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life - helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 110 companies employing 2,750 staff.