Rabies has been eliminated from the US dog population after decades of vaccinations and pet licensing toward that goal, the US Centers for Disease Control announced Friday.
"The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years," stated Charles Rupprecht, chief of the CDC Rabies Program.
"However, there is much work to be done to prevent and control rabies globally," he said in an announcement to mark World Rabies Day.
Rabies in humans accounts for at least 55,000 deaths annually around the world -- at a rate of nearly one every 10 minutes.
US canine-rabies elimination was achieved through mandatory dog vaccination and licensing and aggressive stray dog control.
"Our public health infrastructure, including our quarantine stations, local animal control programs, veterinarians, and clinicians all play a vital role in preserving the canine-rabies-free status in the US," Rupprecht said.
World Rabies Day was established by the CDC and the British charity Alliance for Rabies Control and is co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, as well as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), to raise awareness and funding for rabies prevention and control globally.
"We are looking at this as larger than a one-day event," said Deborah Briggs, executive director of the Alliance for Rabies Control.
"This is the first step in a long-term effort toward human rabies prevention and animal rabies control globally."
"We remain optimistic that this official declaration of canine-rabies free status in the United States could be replicated throughout the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere," Rupprecht said.
"The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission of rabies does not mean that people in the US can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies," he warned.
"Rabies is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets. We need to stay vigilant."