Every year, 59,000 people die from rabies, many of whom are children.
While there is a pre-exposure vaccine, this is mainly accessible in the Western world and is very costly. If you do get bitten by a rabid dog, a post-exposure vaccine is available but in poor nations, it is often in short supply.
Mission Rabies, a British charity, are tackling this issue by vaccinating dogs, training vets and running educational programmes in vulnerable areas around the World.
Following World Health Organisation (WHO) advice, Mission Rabies’ goal is to vaccinate 70% of local dogs in affected countries.
‘Each rabid dog might only infect just over one other, so it doesn’t spread like a huge outbreak, but it just spreads slowly in the population,’ Kate Shervell of International Director of Mission Rabies explains.
‘By vaccinating 70%, the chances of a rabid dog biting a vaccinated dog is greater than [it biting] an unvaccinated dog.’
In their current programmes in Malawi and India, the charity have been setting up clinics in the most vulnerable areas, where local people can bring their pooch along to get a vaccine against the disease. They also have a fully equipped mobile vaccination unit so they can reach rural areas.
So far, Mission Rabies have given over 160,000 dogs the jab and have neutered 40,000 more.
‘When we began the programme we were picking up a rabid dog every month. And now, in the last five months, we’ve picked up two rabid dogs,’ said Kate Shervell.
‘If we are seeing no more rabies cases in dogs, we really won’t be seeing the cases in humans either.’
To ensure longterm effects and provide local employment opportunities, the charity have also been training local vets with the skills required to run neutering and vaccination campaigns of their own.
They’ve also been running education programmes at schools to teach children about rabies control and protection. As children are those most affected by this disease, it’s Mission Rabies belief that these classes will educate and protect as many children as possible.