World Rabies Day in Cambodia in 2014: Rabies remains a public health issue

Joint Press Release Between The Ministry Of Health Kingdom Of Cambodia And The World Health Organization

26 September 2014

Rabies is one of the oldest disease known and remains of public health and economic significance in most parts of Asia. Rabies is caused by a virus and transmitted from animal to humans, for which there is still not treatment available once a patient develops the symptoms.

The World Rabies Day, which falls on 28th September, has been created to remind that rabies remains a public health hazard in many parts of the world, killing at least 55,000 people, which over 90% cases are concentrated in Asia and Africa. Dog bites are the cause of almost all human rabies’ deaths, with much smaller number of cases occurring each year from other domestic and wild animals, including bats. Rabies experts at WHO and around the world are highlighting dog vaccination programmes as the most effective way to reduce the risk of this disease.

In Cambodia, it is estimated that approximately 800 people may have died of rabies in 2007, according to a study carried out by the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia (IPC). Dogs are the main reservoir of the rabies virus and are represented in an important number in the country, with more than 4,7 millions. Still following the findings of the IPC study, there is one dog for approximately every 3 humans (which is 3 to 4 times higher than the neighboring countries) and it is estimated that at least 700,000 dog bites are happening annually.

The Rabies Prevention Center at IPC is the largest rabies prevention clinic in Cambodia, providing effective vaccination six days a week. In 2013, a total of 21 076 persons were administered injections, most of them after being bitten by dogs (93.5%) and few by cats (5.7%).

“Rabies is still a serious threat to the health of the Cambodians and is a fatal infection, meaning there is no cure, after the appearance of the first symptoms. There are effective vaccines available to prevent rabies both in humans and animals, which can be used before and after any presumed exposure,” explained Dr. Ly Sovann, head of the Communicable Disease Control Department of Ministry of Health.

“Wound cleansing and immunization within a few hours after contact with a suspect rabid animal can prevent the disease and death. Please be vigilant, follow the below precautions and act quickly after an animal bite:

  • Wounds should be washed and flushed immediately with soap and water for 15 minutes. If soap is not available, flush with water alone. This is the most effective first-aid treatment against rabies.
  • Wounds should be cleaned thoroughly with alcohol/ethanol or povidone-iodine, if available.
  • As soon as possible go to a healthcare facility for further treatment and vaccination
  • Do not apply irritants to the wounds, such as chili powder, plant juices.
  • Do not cover the wounds with dressings or bandages.
  • Do not suture the wounds

Rabies can be eliminated in Cambodia and mass vaccination of dogs is the most cost-effective way to achieve a significant and lasting reduction in the number of human deaths from rabies. This is because when dogs are vaccinated against rabies, humans, if they are bitten, will not need post-exposure treatment in rabies.

“Controlling rabies in dogs is not easy, it is a real challenge which requests additional collaboration between the public health and animal health sectors, strong political commitment and increasing awareness, as well as regional synergy to tackle this disease”, said Dr. Dong-Il Ahn, WHO Representative in Cambodia.

For more information on rabies, please visit the Ministry of Health website or call the Ministry of Health hotline numbers: 115 (free call); 012 488 981 or 089 669 567