In a major milestone in the global fight against rabies, over two million dogs have now been vaccinated, including many in key regions such as India, Malawi, Cambodia, Zambia, Ghana and Thailand.
This turning point has been announced by Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), a subsidiary of the charity Dogs Trust, after carrying out the work as part of its project Mission Rabies.
It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) are set to mark World Rabies Day on Thursday 28th September. An annual occasion, World Rabies Day raises awareness about the world’s deadliest disease and promotes the fight against it.
Rabies causes the death of a child at least every nine minutes and costs the global economy $8.6 billion annually.
Dogs are the number one source of human rabies deaths, and account for up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans. Once symptomatic the disease is deadly, and there is no treatment.
However, human rabies deaths are entirely preventable, and the vaccination of dogs is the most effective strategy to eliminate the disease, as it stops transmission at the source.
In addition to the human cost, each year millions of dogs are indiscriminately and inhumanely killed due to the fear associated with the disease. Vaccinating dogs protects them.
In May 2023, it was announced that Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and its Mission Rabies project, would become part of the Dogs Trust family, in a move which will advance the fight against rabies and transform welfare standards for dogs and animals worldwide.
In addition to their vaccination programmes, the group operate several initiatives across the globe which aim to help eliminate human deaths due to dog bite transmitted rabies, and improve animal welfare standards around the world through sustainable improvements to veterinary care. These include spaying and neutering dogs, vet training, and community outreach.
In May 2023, WVS and Dogs Trust commenced the largest ever rabies vaccination drive in Cambodia. The groundbreaking drive vaccinated more than 75,000 dogs over a ten-day period in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where we estimate between 1-2 children die each week as a result of rabies. The project is now evolving into a bigger campaign, to save both children and dogs from this horrible disease.
The key is to vaccinate 70% of any dog population in endemic countries. WVS aims to vaccinate 70% of the canine population, the coverage needed to eliminate the disease in dogs and prevent human deaths.
Luke Gamble, Founder and Chief Executive of WVS, said: “Our pledge is to half the number of human rabies deaths in the next five years and protect hundreds of thousands of dogs. We can do this as part of Dogs Trust. The key to eliminating rabies is breaking the cycle of transmission by vaccinating 70% of the dogs in any given project site.
“We have to do this for a few years, build up concurrent surveillance and education and then we can create rabies-controlled zones.
“We know it works, there have been no human rabies deaths in Goa for the last five years – a direct result of our Mission Rabies project launched there in 2015 to make Goa the first rabies-controlled state in India.”
About Worldwide Veterinary Service and Mission Rabies
Mission Rabies is a project of Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), an international veterinary charity based in the UK. Set up by veterinarian Dr Luke Gamble in 2003, the charity provides veterinary support to animals in need and acts as a central veterinary resource for animal charities and non-profit organisations around the world. In 2013, WVS launched the Mission Rabies project to eliminate canine-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030.
Following World Health Organization guidelines, Mission Rabies runs mass canine vaccination and community education in the world’s worst hotspots for the disease. Mission Rabies currently delivers campaigns in Malawi, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique, Cambodia, and Thailand. Over two million dogs have been vaccinated and over six million children have been educated worldwide, since Mission Rabies began.