Rabies experts on Thursday unveiled a blueprint for eliminating the pernicious disease, which almost always is caused by bites from rabid dogs and kills tens of thousands of people a year worldwide, through a program of mass dog vaccinations in targeted regions.

The viral disease is rare in developed countries thanks to routine vaccination of pet dogs, but still kills about 69,000 people globally every year, mostly in poor and rural parts of Africa and Asia. About a third of rabies-related deaths are in India alone.

Vaccines for people and dogs have long existed, but rabies has persisted in the absence of a concerted effort to wipe it out. The international team of experts, writing in the journal Science, proposed what they called a cost-effective and achievable strategy for ending canine-spread rabies.