(CNN Spanish) – Mexico is a territory free of human rabies transmitted by dogs: that is the great achievement that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced on Monday. According to figures from the agency, since 2006 the country has not registered any case of the disease due to contagion with dogs, after only three appeared in 1999.
This is a historical fact for Mexico, as it is the first country in the world to receive the validation of the WHO for eradicating the disease as a public health problem. Each year, rabies takes the lives of 60,000 people globally, according to PAHO statistics. In Latin America and the Caribbean, new cases of rabies have decreased more than 95% in humans and 98% in dogs since 1983.
« By eliminating human rabies transmitted by dogs, Mexico is showing the world that ending infectious diseases for new generations is possible, » said Carissa F. Etienne, director of PAHO.
According to the organization, since the 1990s Mexico has implemented a strategy to eradicate rabies with actions such as “vaccination campaigns for massive and free dogs, continuous and effective surveillance, awareness of society, timely diagnosis, and availability of post-exposure prophylaxis in the country’s public health services, close to the population ”.
The Ministry of Health of the country described the achievement as “historical” and explained that in the 1990s between 60 and 70 deaths were recorded annually in humans due to this cause and the figure amounted to more than 3,000 cases in dogs. « This achievement is the result of 30 years of work coordinated by the Ministry of Health, through the National Center for Preventive Programs and Disease Control (Cenaprece), and implemented by the State Health Services, » the entity said in a statement .
PAHO also noted that Mexico eliminated onchocerciasis in 2015 and trachoma in 2017, “three of the more than 30 infectious diseases and related conditions” that the entity seeks to eradicate from the continent by 2030.
Now, throughout the continent, according to PAHO, there is a favorable situation because “a large part of the countries efficiently develop their elimination programs and maintain immunization coverage”. In fact, the organization foresees that by 2022 two variants of human rabies of canine origin can be eliminated from the Americas.
Rabies in other animals, the challenge
The organization warns that in order to keep the elimination in force, preventive and rabies control actions must continue, as the disease is present in other wild animals, such as bats. In fact, the rabies transmitted by these animals is the one with the most cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These animals are responsible for 70% of cases.
Therefore, the CDC recommends three main actions to prevent rabies, starting with the vaccination of pets that has been key to reducing cases; It is also suggested to avoid wild spaces and seek medical attention quickly after contact with a wild or unvaccinated animal. If left untreated, anger is deadly.