World Rabies Day is on September 28 and Australian-based international animal charity Vets Beyond Borders is embracing this year’s awareness theme by bringing this deadly dog-mediated disease to Australia’s attention.
“Rabies kills thousands of people around the world every year. It is nearly always fatal – only a few people in the world have survived treatment. But it’s 100 per cent preventable by vaccination,” said Maryann Dalton, CEO of Vets Beyond Borders (VBB).
Rabies infection is caused by the rabies virus, which is spread through the saliva of infected animals by biting another animal or a person, and it is always fatal once clinical symptoms appear.
Australia is free of rabies, but tragically the virus kills approximately 59,000 people every year – 40 per cent children in Asia and Africa¹. Rabies also causes financial hardship when people have to pay for vaccination after bite wounds. An estimated more than 5.5 billion people live at daily risk of rabies².
World Rabies Day is created and coordinated annually by Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) and is the first and only global day of action and awareness for rabies prevention. This year’s theme is Rabies: Share the message. Save a life and highlights the importance of education and awareness to prevent rabies. Click here for GARC World Rabies Day awareness events in Australia.
“Dog bites cause almost all human cases of rabies. We can prevent rabies deaths through increased awareness, vaccinating dogs to prevent disease at its source, and timely life-saving post-bite treatment for people,” said Ms Dalton.
Through its VetMatch and VetTrain programs, Vets Beyond Borders deploys volunteer veterinarians, veterinary nurses and other animal welfare workers across the globe to deliver animal health and community awareness programs where they are desperately needed.
Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) program
Vets Beyond Borders also runs an effective anti-rabies program in India (which carries a third of the world’s rabies burden) that has demonstrated successful elimination of dog-mediated rabies, as published in the Frontiers in Veterinary Science Journal (March 2017).
Vets Beyond Borders created the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH) program in collaboration with the Government of Sikkim and international charity Fondation Brigitte Bardot to provide canine rabies vaccination, humane dog population control, community education and treatment of sick and injured animals.
“The SARAH program is the first state-wide rabies program in India and generates tremendous results with a small dedicated staff and VBB volunteers working with very basic facilities,” said Ms Dalton.
During the 2016-2017 financial year, the SARAH program has desexed 7,083 animals, administered 35,948 doses of anti-rabies vaccine and 290 doses of distemper Vets Beyond Borders. Volunteers also provided medical, surgical and hospital care to hundreds of sick and injured domestic animals and wildlife³.
The canine rabies vaccine is provided free of charge thanks to funds contributed by the Government of Sikkim and Fondation Brigitte Bardot. For the 2018/2019 financial year, 30,000 – 40,000 rabies vaccinations will be administered in addition to 150 to 200 distemper vaccinations and sterilisation of 8,000 to 9,000 dogs, in addition to treatment of sick and injured animals.
“Vets Beyond Borders provides the volunteers and facilitates clinical skill development of local vets,” said Ms Dalton. “We need funds to purchase medical equipment and vaccinations to treat street dogs for distemper, parvo and rabies.”