Neglected tropical diseases

WHO publishes new rabies guidelines and recommendations on lifesaving immunization

20 April 2018 | Geneva −− The World Health Organization (WHO) today published the third report of its Expert Consultation on Rabies, which incorporates the latest recommendations on rabies immunization made in October 2017 by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization; these recommendations are also published in the Weekly Epidemiological Record.

©Daniel Stewart

The report provides updated guidance based on evidence and programmatic experience on the multiple facets of rabies prevention, control and elimination.

Rabies, the most lethal virus known to man, kills an estimated 59 000 underserved people annually despite rabies being a preventable disease.

The third report of the WHO Expert Consultation on Rabies, requested by countries, provides hands-on guidance to drive progress towards rabies elimination. It is based on evidence and programmatic experience on the multiple facets of rabies prevention, control and elimination. Engagement with international partners to accelerate country and regional programme implementation is required in order to achieve the target of zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

The key updates include:

  • surveillance strategies, including cross-sectoral linking of systems and suitable diagnostics;
  • the latest recommendations on human and animal immunization;
  • palliative care in low-resource settings;
  • risk assessment to guide management of bite victims; and
  • a proposed process for validation and verification of countries reaching zero human deaths from rabies.

The meeting of experts supported the recommendations endorsed by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization in October 2017 to improve access to affordable rabies biologicals, especially for underserved populations, and increase programmatic feasibility in line with the objectives of universal health coverage. The updated WHO position on rabies vaccines, also published today, concerns the two main immunization strategies for people at risk, namely recommendations on vaccination for post-exposure prophylaxis and vaccination for pre-exposure prophylaxis, including the use of rabies immunoglobulins.

Investing in rabies control and elimination strengthens health systems, improves equity and access to healthcare and contributes to sustainable development. The capacity required for rabies elimination is an investment not only in the elimination of this fatal but preventable disease but also in building capacity in the world’s most neglected regions.

Rabies is a 100% vaccine-preventable disease and providing support to countries will end the pain and suffering due to rabies that burdens people, especially children.

The collaborative mechanisms required to prevent rabies are a model for collaboration on One Health at every level and among multiple stakeholders, and are a recipe for success.

Ashok Moloo
Telephone: +41 22 791 16 37
Mobile phone: +41 79 540 50 86

Further reading

More information