60,000 die a year from 'preventable' rabies bites
A British-led study has found almost 60,000 people die every year from rabies transmitted by dogs.
The report is the first to consider the impact of canine-spread rabies in terms of deaths and the economic costs around the world.
The UK was declared rabies-free in 1902, with almost all human deaths occurring in Asia and Africa, but in 2003 it was recognised that some British bats may carry a rabies-like virus.
The study, led by the University of Glasgow, estimates that annual economic losses because of the disease are around £5.7bn (€7.9bn), mostly due to premature deaths but also because of spending on human vaccines, lost income for victims of animal bites and other costs.
It found that 160 people die every single day after catching the entirely preventable disease from dogs, amounting to around 59,000 deaths a year.
Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, with dogs being the most common transmitter.
It affects the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and death and, although a pre-exposure vaccination is an effective treatment, people in the poorest countries do not have access to it.
India has the highest number of fatalities, with more than 20,000 human deaths annually.
While rabies is nearly 100pc fatal, it is also almost 100pc preventable. The last recorded case of anyone having rabies in the UK was in May 2012.