According to official estimates, rabies kills 55,000 people each year, primarily in India, Southeast Asia and Africa. However, the death toll is probably much higher; one report estimates that the number of deaths in some areas is possibly 100 times that reported. As rabies cases do not need to be reported to the authorities in many countries, and many people do not seek treatment or are misdiagnosed, obtaining an accurate estimate of the overall prevalence is difficult. Even the official death toll is higher than that for diseases such as human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.
As with other diseases that are preventable and treatable, such as pneumonia, it seems unthinkable that rabies still claims so many lives. Successful control of rabies in the United Kingdom and the Americas shows that rabies can be controlled and possibly eliminated. Further research will bring us closer to this goal, but it will require funding agencies and governments to better understand the scope of the problem. Until then, important events like World Rabies Day will remain vital to shed light on this neglected problem.