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Dorset vet charity tackles surge in global rabies cases

Mission Rabies, a veterinary charity has kicked off 2021 with a rapid response mass vaccination campaign in Tanzania, where an estimated 1,500 people die from rabies every year. Alongside international volunteers from the United States, United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, the charity will vaccinate over 7,000 dogs in 10 days to protect a community from this deadly disease.

This comes ahead of the second World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day on January 30th.

World NTD Day recognises the progress made following the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs.  Since then, 33 countries have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease.

Mission Rabies, which is based on the edge of the New Forest,  is leading the global fight against rabies after a surge in canine rabies during the global pandemic. With restaurants and cafes shut all over the world, there has been a rise in roaming dogs searching for food, fighting for territory and putting communities at risk. 

Over 99% of all human cases of rabies are caused by an infected dog bite and whilst there is no treatment once someone shows clinical signs, it is 100% preventable.

Mission Rabies’ Founder and CEO, Dr Luke Gamble explains.

Killing dogs doesn’t work. All that happens is that you take out one group of dogs from an area and another group of dogs move in. They bring in more disease and are often more aggressive. The key is to vaccinate the dogs, establish herd immunity and eliminate the virus from communities. That’s what Mission Rabies is all about.  We have to tackle rabies now. It could easily spread and this pandemic has shown how. Tackling the disease at source is the only way.

Despite the challenges of 2020, Mission Rabies managed to vaccinate over 81,000 dogs against rabies across the state of Goa

Andy Gibson, Research Director for Mission Rabies said the field teams have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to address the surge in cases.

We’ve seen a spike in rabies cases in Goa, India because of the lockdown. Dogs moved between state borders, threatening to ravage rural communities in search of food. We had to deploy our teams to work through the pandemic, often at great personal risk, to protect the people, particularly the children in the affected areas.

Rabies is the world’s deadliest zoonotic disease. It results in the death of a child at least every nine minutes somewhere in the world and is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that collectively affects 1.7 billion people worldwide.

You can donate to Mission Rabies here.

Photo: Mission Rabies – Free rabies vaccination clinic in Malawi