This World Rabies Day the global public health charity, Mission Rabies, is celebrating the milestone of vaccinating two million dogs worldwide against rabies. This is a result of the charity’s mass vaccination campaigns that have been running since 2013, in an effort to stop human deaths from rabies by 2030. World Rabies Day takes place on the 28th September each year, which marks the anniversary of Louis Pasteur’s death who administered the very first human rabies vaccine in 1885.
Despite being vaccine preventable, rabies still claims the life of a child at least every nine minutes. 40% of all human rabies deaths are in children under 15 years old. It has the highest fatality rate of any infectious disease and once clinical symptoms show, death is inevitable. As 99% of all human rabies cases are contracted as a result of a dog bite, vaccinating dogs is the most effective long-term rabies control strategy to protect communities. Mission Rabies runs mass canine vaccination campaigns, surveillance, and community education programmes in the world’s worst rabies affected areas. The charity’s response teams, located in its key project sites, also offer 24-hour support for rabies emergencies.
Mission Rabies first launched in India, where a third of the world’s human cases occur and there are 4.5 million exposures every year. Volunteers from 14 countries joined forces with local dog catchers and vets to vaccinate over 60,000 dogs in just 30 days. Today, the charity now vaccinates over 200,000 dogs each year and has project sites in Malawi, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Dr Luke Gamble, Founder and CEO of Mission Rabies, started the charity after witnessing the devasting effects of the disease whilst working in India:
“I started Mission Rabies after seeing first-hand the devastating impact that this disease has on so many children in developing countries. There was already research showing that vaccinating dogs not only stops ineffective mass canine cull campaigns but also prevents human rabies deaths – the challenge was powering on to find a way to get 70% of dogs vaccinated in the worst affected rabies endemic areas. Thanks to the incredible efforts of so many amazing team members, sponsors, volunteers and supporters, we’ve now vaccinated over two million dogs and eliminated rabies from some key project sites – including an entire Indian state. I’m hugely proud to be a part of the Mission Rabies team and we’re all delighted with this landmark achievement. None of it would have been possible without the inspirational winners believing in the cause so a tremendous thanks to all involved and a special mention to Dogs Trust Worldwide, MSD Animal Health, the CDC and the University of Edinburgh for their phenomenal support. There is so much more we need to do, and so we need to really fire up the momentum globally if we’re going to hit the WHO 2030 goal.”
Louis Mulambia tragically lost his 4-year-old son Devin to rabies in 2009, after he was bitten by a rabid dog in Malawi, Africa. By the time he reached hospital, it was already too late, and the doctor told Louis there was nothing that could be done to save Devin’s life. The loss of his son was devastating and led Mr Mulambia to join the Mission Rabies team in Malawi as a Data Collector, where he now raises vital awareness about rabies prevention, in the hope that other families can escape the same fate. Mr Mulambia is tasked with urging pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated against rabies:
“I take a very huge role in telling the owners the dangers of rabies. I always take time to tell them what happened to my son. I never fear about telling anyone about my story because I know, rabies is very dangerous, and here in Malawi, a lot of people are suffering from rabies.”
To efficiently deliver canine vaccinations on a large scale, Mission Rabies use a bespoke data collection ‘Rabies app’, developed together with its sister charity Worldwide Veterinary Service. Vaccination figures and information about each dog is entered into the app to help with rabies and dog population research, and to ensure the campaigns are effective and measurable. The app is also used by other government bodies and NGOs to record vital data and vaccination figures.
Andy Gibson, Director of Strategic Research at Mission Rabies, said:
“Our smartphone app has been fundamental in reaching this milestone. Each project must ensure 70% of dogs are vaccinated to establish herd immunity in the local canine population, breaking transmission and saving lives. The app helps us measure this in a scientific manner, indicating areas where further vaccination work is required and directing teams on the ground to respond to rabies outbreaks. This technology has been a game changer for our work. It was pivotal in supporting Goa to recently become a rabies-controlled state, the first of its kind in India.”
This two million vaccinations milestone follows on from Mission Rabies’ success in educating five million children in rabies prevention, which was reached during June 2022.
To find out more about Mission Rabies, visit www.missionrabies.com.