End dog rabiesIn 2005, The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) was formed as its founders noticed a lack of effective programs to control rabies in poorer communities around the world. Since then, the organization has been working to end dog rabies worldwide and, ultimately, the transfer of rabies to humans.

Global Impacts of Rabies

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that dog bites cause 99% of rabies cases in humans. According to the WHO, about 59,000 people die yearly from rabies, and approximately 40% of those deaths are children. Many of these children live in poor, rural areas in Asia and Africa. The WHO wrote that the vaccination of dogs combined with dog-bite prevention could eliminate rabies in dogs worldwide.

A 2018 study examined the connections between poverty, rabies knowledge, healthcare and dog ownership. The study looked at data from two specific countries: Uganda and Cameroon. Overall, the study showed a correlation between communities in poverty and fewer dogs being owned. In Uganda, results showed that poorer communities had lower vaccination coverage rates for dogs, meaning fewer dogs were vaccinated. Communities in Cameroon showed a cost-barrier to accessing post-bite care, revealing that poverty can be a roadblock to receiving treatment for dog bites.

Low dog vaccination rates in poorer communities and poverty as a barrier to treatment are not issues unique to Uganda and Cameroon. The GARC reported that poorer communities in general, mostly in Africa and Asia, tend to have less effective programs for controlling rabies.

Solutions

The GARC has been working to end dog rabies worldwide for many years. Recently, they have made steps towards eliminating rabies in dogs and, thereby, the transfer of rabies from dogs to humans. 

  1. World Rabies Day: In 2006, the GARC helped create World Rabies Day to draw attention to dog rabies worldwide and the health issues it poses. The first official World Rabies Day was held in 2007. Boehringer Ingelheim & Merial, one of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world, donated 75,000 rabies vaccinations as a part of World Rabies Day in 2018.  
  2. Rabies education: The GARC helped launch a rabies curriculum in Bohol, a province of the Philippines. Rabies education was officially incorporated into every school in 2009. The program was successful; in 2011, Bohol was declared rabies free
  3. Certification programs: In 2015, the GARC created a free online platform where people around the world could be certified in vaccination and animal handling and earn a Rabies Educator Certification. More than 4,000 people had graduated from the rabies education program by 2018, and 500 of those received a vaccination and animal handling certification. 
  4. Rabies and poverty awareness: In 2015, the GARC published the first study about the effect of rabies on global health and the economic burden it can create. This paved the way for future studies outside of the GARC, such as the 2018 study mentioned above. 
  5. Strategic plans: The GARC helped launch the Global Strategic Plan for Zero by 30 in 2018. The plan’s goal is to completely eliminate human deaths from rabies. The WHO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States, the World Organization for Animal Health and the GARC have all come together to complete the strategic plan by 2030, hence the name Zero by 30. 

According to the GARC and independent studies, rabies has been shown to have a greater impact on those in poor communities. The vast majority of rabies transmission to humans comes from dogs, and the WHO has determined vaccination and the prevention of bites as a potential strategy to eradicating the disease. The GARC has been working to end dog rabies worldwide through awareness, education, studies and strategic plans. While thousands of people contract rabies yearly, the GARC, along with other agencies, are hard at work to decrease the impact of this disease. 

–  Melody Kazel 
Photo: Flickr

ThailandDeath from rabies has decreased significantly in Thailand from almost 200 deaths 10 years ago to only eight in 2015. With the death rate from rabies-related cases decreasing, Thailand is well on its way to reaching its proposed goal of eliminating the disease by the year 2020. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol visited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva this past August advocating for an end to rabies. She has contributed to promoting the mass vaccination and management of dogs and to enhanced awareness of the disease.

Rabies is a fatal but curable disease that targets rural and poor communities, predominantly, in Asia and in Africa. It can be transferrable through bites and scratches from infected animals, most commonly, dogs. Her Royal Highness’ aid in helping people become aware of the disease and how to prevent it is helping Thailand reach its goal to eliminate rabies by 2020, which is in line with the wider international initiative to end human rabies deaths by 2030. 

Eliminating a disease like rabies requires a response from the many pet owners in Thailand. Vaccinations for the disease stop disease transmission at its source, the animal. Thailand actually leads the world in developing and implementing disease control methods such as cost-saving intradermal vaccines which are also dose-saving, meaning low-income pet owners can give fewer doses with the same level of effectiveness. This is especially important when it comes to making these vaccines more widespread in poorer and more rural populations.

Education programs have been created around the world and are being used in Thailand to help communities understand how to avoid being bitten, how to learn animal behavior and what to do when in contact with a rabid animal. Programs teaching the Thai people how to take care of wounds are also being implemented and help in the fight to eliminate rabies.

Increasing mobile units to more rural areas outside of Bangkok that provide care for the people and to bring the necessary care-service to dogs is another step in ending this disease. Post-exposure prophylaxis or, PEP, is brought to these remote areas and helps ensure that at least 70 percent of dogs in the area receive the vaccination. HRH Princess Chulabhorn not only cares to help improve the health of the people but is also concerned with promoting a more humane treatment of dogs and is helping other countries adopt more sustainable and compassionate ways of treating them. She goes on to say that if any other country needs help with the elimination of rabies she is willing to lend a helping hand.

WHO is working closely with Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn to help achieve the goal of eliminating rabies globally by 2030. As for Thailand, with an action plan already in place, it is up to the communities in the country to eliminate rabies by 2020. 

– Lorial Roballo

Photo: Flickr