US Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Virology 2012, 2:306–308; DOI


The historical legacy of zoonotic viral diseases includes more than 50 million human deaths (3% of the world’s population) due to the appearance of a novel influenza virus in the early 1900s as well as the emergence of previously unknown diseases such as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in 1993 [1] and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 [2]. Preventing epidemics resulting from other emerging viral diseases, whether due to ordinary interactions of humans and animals, to man-made environmental changes, or even to increased exposure following natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, depends on the harmonization of all aspects of animal and human health. This recognition of the inextricable interplay between animal and human diseases led to the development of the ‘one health’ concept, which aims to foster synergistic relationships that promote the wellbeing of both animals and humans [3].

Vaccination is generally a very effective way to control the spread of viruses among and between animals and humans. Although for some viruses such as hantaviruses, which are carried by persistently infected rodents, it would be very difficult to prevent human infections by vaccinating the natural host, for other viruses, interrupting the infection of animals could prevent human disease. One of the best-studied examples of this strategy is rabies vaccination of animals. As described by Briggs, great strides in controlling wild-life rabies have been made since the advent of new generations of rabies vaccines including recombinant vector-based vaccines. Despite this accomplishment, and despite the existence of vaccines that are 100% effective in preventing human disease, more than 50,000 people worldwide die from rabies each year, most of whom contracted infections from dogs. As the author indicates, a coordinated approach including epidemiological studies, pre-exposure vaccination of humans and dogs in addition to the established post-exposure vaccination regimens is crucial for preventing these human deaths, and she suggests that this effort could be enhanced by including a contraceptive in the vaccines to reduce dog populations in areas where rabies is prevalent.