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Rabies kills 24,000 a year in Africa because vaccine costly: experts

DAKAR (Reuters) - Rabies kills 24,000 people a year in Africa, most of them children, because many on the world's poorest continent cannot afford the cost of the vaccine, experts said on Thursday.

Africa is home to nearly half the 55,000 people around the world who die each year from rabies, caused mainly by bites from dogs contaminated with the virus, according to a conference of experts on the disease in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Vaccination of humans, as well as dogs and domestic pets, is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.

"This is the disease of the poorest of the poor who can't afford the vaccine," Herve Bourhy, a doctor at France's Pasteur Institute, told reporters.

An anti-rabies vaccine costs 10 euros per injection and four to five vaccinations are needed to create immunity. For many in poor rural African areas where the disease is endemic, this is prohibitively expensive.

With that in mind, rabies experts from 15 sub-Saharan and north African countries who took part in the conference said the most effective way of avoiding the spread of the disease in many parts of Africa was simply to tie up dogs.

(Reporting By Diadie Ba; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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