Rabies is an acute virus disease of the nervous system of mammals that is caused by a rhabdovirus (species Rabies virus of the genus Lyssavirus), usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal and that is characterised typically by increased salivation, abnormal behaviour, and eventual paralysis and death when untreated (source: Merriam-Webster dictionary).
Dogs and Rabies
Rabies still kills tens of thousands of people a year and occurs in more than 150 countries in the world. In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that dogs are the main source of human deaths related to rabies, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans.
Controlling rabies in dogs
The WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) have established a global “United Against Rabies” collaboration to provide a common strategy to achieve "Zero human rabies deaths by 2030". https://endrabiesnow.org/
According to the WHO, vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy to prevent rabies in humans. The fight against rabies requires massive vaccination campaigns, which are currently performed by various actors such as FOUR PAWS: Over 50.000 dogs and cats vaccinated in Myanmar in 2018.
Despite the efforts of various actors and the opinion of experts (see for instance the Recommendations of the Expert Consultation on Rabies held in Geneva in October 2004 (TRS 931, WHO 2005)) regrettably mass culling of dogs is also still used in certain countries as the main measure to combat dog rabies.
When you are travelling it is better to avoid petting strays, especially in a country which is not rabies-free.
Proper vaccination in dogs
By law, the vaccine is considered “effective” 21 days after the primary vaccination. The minimum age for the primary vaccination depends on different protocols, proper to each vaccine. However, is it rather safe to say that the minimum age is around 12 weeks if the puppy comes from a responsible breeder (vaccinated mother). It means that when you want to buy a puppy, it is advisable to not buy a puppy of under 15 weeks. It could be sold by illegal breeders and carry diseases, including rabies.
If you have any doubts about the vaccination status of your dog or cat, it is advisable to bring the animal to the veterinarian, together with the pet passport or in the worst case the animal health book. DO NOT BUY A CAT OR A DOG WHICH HAS NOT BEEN PREVIOUSLY VACCINATED AND WHICH DOES NOT HAVE THE PROOF OFVACCINATION IN THE PET PASSPORT OR HEALTH BOOK.