IMPACT
06/03/2014 02:02 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2014

60,000 People Die Each Year From Rabies. A Simple Measure Can Put An End To These Deaths

At the end of a hallway in a clinic in the Philippines, a single bed sits in the center of what has been designated the "Rabies Room." It's a confined area for patients infected with the fatal viral disease.

In a video produced by Al Jazeera, Dr. Betsy Miranda said she has seen hundreds of preventable deaths take place in that room due to rabies, the latest being a young adult male "at the prime of his life." And she's had enough.

Dr. Miranda is being featured as a #HealthHero in Al Jazeera English's Lifeline series, which highlights innovations that help control and eliminate diseases globally. She's part of a campaign fighting back against the virus by vaccinating dogs as a means of preventing viral transmission later. The Philippines' Bureau of Animal Industry launched the 70-day nationwide program in April, hoping to inject up to 9 million dogs with the vaccine, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While several wild animals, like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes can transmit rabies, dog bites cause more than 90 percent of infections worldwide.

"It's a win-win for the community, for the people, for the dogs as a whole," Dr. Charles Rupprecht of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control said in the video.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rabies virus ultimately causes death once the disease infiltrates a person's central nervous system. About 60,000 people die from rabies each year globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but death is entirely preventable if the infected patient receives post-exposure injections soon after transmission.

In a map produced by CartoDB using statistics collected by WHO, the Filipino people are at relatively "high" risk of contracting the rabies virus, as are people in much of Africa and South Asia.

In the U.S., where WHO has deemed the risk of rabies infection to humans as "low," dramatic changes have been seen throughout the 20th century. The number of human deaths related to rabies has declined from about 100 annually at the turn of the century, to just one or two per year in the 1990s, according to the CDC. Today, the very few deaths that occur are due to infected individuals failing to recognize they've contracted the disease and not seeking medical assistance.

To learn more about Al Jazeera English's Lifelines series and take action, visit the series' website.

h/t Upworthy

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