This year’s World Rabies Day theme is: “Rabies: Facts, not Fear”.
World Rabies Day was created to raise awareness and advocate for rabies elimination globally and is designed to unite all people, organizations, and stakeholders against rabies.
World Rabies Day is held every year on September 28. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur – the first person to successfully create a vaccine against rabies.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has raised many doubts and misconceptions about diseases, their spread and about vaccination in general. Because of this, there has been some hesitancy about the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines in many countries and many people are afraid to get vaccinated. For rabies, this is nothing new, as fears, misconceptions and misinformation about the disease and its prevention dates back hundreds of years. For that reason, this year’s theme is focused on sharing facts about rabies, and not spreading fear about the disease by relying on misinformation and myths.
Facts: Facts are essential for raising disease awareness, preventing rabies cases, having the animal population vaccinated, and educating people about the dangers of rabies and how to prevent it. Without facts we would not have data for decision-makers to inform them of the serious nature of the disease. We would not be able to advocate for its elimination and the burden of the disease would remain unknown, resulting in tens of thousands of people and animals continuing to die from rabies each year. Let us use facts to raise awareness and educate others about rabies – a 99% fatal, yet 100% preventable disease.
Fear: The word “fear” has three meanings in this year’s theme. Firstly, it relates to the general fear caused by rabies, the fear people experience when encountering rabid animals, and the fear that people live with in communities plagued by rabies. The second meaning relates directly to the symptom of fear that people may experience when infected with rabies. Lastly, fear relates to the fear caused by ‘fake news’ or myths about rabies – making people afraid of vaccination, making people afraid to get their animals sterilized or vaccinated, and making people believe in ineffective treatments for the disease.