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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 11:47 GMT
Rabies and snake bite care boost
By Immogen Foulkes
BBC News

Rabies vaccine
Rabies treatment supplies are limited in poorer countries
A global US$10million plan to improve treatment of rabies, snake bites and scorpion stings is being drawn up by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Experts are meeting in Geneva on Wednesday to consider the issue.

The WHO says thousands of people - mainly the young - die unnecessarily each year because they do not have access to the treatment they need.

The new plan should make available millions more doses of anti-rabies serum and anti-snake bite venom.

There are effective solutions that could save millions of lives
Howard Zucker
World Health Organization

The WHO estimates that more than 12 million people are attacked each year by dogs, snakes or scorpions.

Around 8 million ought to have precautionary treatment for rabies following a dog bite but only 6% get it.

Rabies remains the 10th most common cause of death from infections in humans.

It is a disease which is 100% fatal if untreated - but also 100% preventable if treated early enough with the right drugs.

Production low

However, production of the serum to treat rabies and of anti-venom treatment against snake bites is low because demand has fallen in wealthier countries and profits have dropped.

That means the treatments have become either unavailable or unaffordable in the countries - mainly in Africa and Asia - which still desperately need them.

Snake bite victims in particular, the WHO says, are forced to rely on traditional remedies.

Many die or are left with serious neurological disorders.

Under the new plan, the WHO plans to improve treatment availability by transferring serum production technology to developing countries.

It also plans a new global standard of quality control and training for local manufacturers.

Howard Zucker, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Technologies and Pharmaceuticals, said: "We need to boost local manufacturers' capacity and improve the delivery of products to remote rural areas.

"There are effective solutions that could save millions of lives."

Rabies warning over minor bites
02 Sep 05 |  Health


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