New Delhi: Over 1.4 billion people in the Southeast Asian region are at a potential risk of rabies due to large human and dog concentrations in congested habitable areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement here Tuesday.
"Children aged 5-15 years represent 40 percent of people exposed to dog-bites in rabies-endemic areas. Southeast Asia region has more deaths due to rabies than in any other part of the world," the statement said ahead of the World Rabies Day Wednesday.
In Southeast Asian region, WHO includes India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, among many other countries.
The WHO defines rabies as a disease caused by a virus transmitted to humans from animals. It infects domestic and wild animals, and is spreads to people through close contact with infected saliva via bites or scratches.
"Countries must develop and implement comprehensive national rabies control programmes through partnership in order to sustain prevention of rabies and move towards elimination of human rabies," said Samlee Plianbangchang, regional director for WHO South-East Asia Region.
She also urged countries to ensure access to modern tissue-culture rabies vaccine, a cheaper and safer mode of vaccination for animals.
Some of the other important steps listed are promoting cost-effective intradermal vaccination and controlling rabies at the source through mass dog vaccination and animal birth control.
In the Southeast Asian region, rabies kill 21,000-24,000 people every year -- nearly 45 percent of global deaths due to the disease.
While Sri Lanka and Thailand have successfully brought down the number of rabies-related deaths through mass dog vaccination campaigns, India has been promoting intradermal rabies vaccination at the state level.
Anti-rabies vaccination and birth control of dogs have also been carried out by animal welfare organisations and NGOs.