by Brian Remortel, senior specialist, emerging infectious disease
The inaugural World Rabies Day was held on September 8, 2007, and witnessed the participation of hundreds of thousands of individuals from more than 70 countries. This annual event is dedicated to raising awareness about rabies and enhancing prevention and control efforts globally. On September 28th, I had the pleasure to attend a World Rabies Day symposium at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This years’ symposium was held in memory of Dr. George Baer, who was the long time chief of the Rabies Laboratory in the Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases at the CDC. Dr. Baer has been proclaimed as the “father of oral rabies vaccination,” which enabled successful mass fox vaccination campaigns throughout Canada and Europe.
Dr. Baer was a former Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, who initially became interested in rabies during his assignment at the New York State Health Department in Albany. Throughout the nation, APHL member laboratories make significant contributions to the prevention and control of rabies. Public health laboratories routinely perform diagnostic tests that play a vital role in the rapid identification of the rabies infections which provides vital information to assist in post-exposure prophylaxis efforts. In addition, the results of rabies diagnostics provide vital surveillance data to improve control efforts in endemic wildlife populations. APHL member laboratories provide a critical service in protecting our nation from this 100 percent preventable disease.