After an entire Wild Dogs pack were wiped out in South Kafue National Park due to an outbreak of rabies, Game Rangers International alongside the World Veterinary Services WVS partnered with Mission Rabies.
Rabies kills around 59,000 people globally, per year
Human rabies cases are primarily caused by a bite from an infected dog and once symptoms develop, it is already fatal. Millions of healthy dogs are inhumanely killed each year out of fear of the disease, but this is not halting the spread which causes the deaths of around 59,000 people globally per year, mostly children.
Mission Rabies are leading the defence against rabies using science-led research. The most effective long-term rabies control is through the vaccination of dogs in rabies hotspots.
In August 2021, GRI, partnering with Mission Rabies, the International Rabies Taskforce (IRT), Centre for Disease Control and the Zambian Government, conducted phase 1 of a pilot study, which vaccinates dogs against rabies. The aim was to vaccinate 70% of the local dog population bordering South Kafue National Park to reduce the risk of rabies in humans, domestic animals and wildlife.
Vaccinating and marking domestic puppies in Zambia
To initiate the campaign, a dog population survey was conducted by GRI alongside UNZA Veterinary Students, using the WVS data collection app to gain an insight into the dogs and their distribution in these rural and remote areas.
After months of preparations and planning the rabies vaccination campaign was launched. GRI’s education team headed out to provide community education and sensitisation a day or two ahead of the vaccination teams to ensure that people were aware of the upcoming campaign and the benefits of their participation. Fourteen schools took part in a life-saving education programme learning what rabies is, how to prevent dog bites and how to treat dog bite wounds.
Live-saving education on rabies throughout the communities
The vaccination teams consisted of Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MFL) Veterinary Assistants as the vaccinators, UNZA Students as data collectors and the GRI team alongside MLF were dog handlers/drivers. Six teams were each designated a daily vaccination location and the WVS app directed them to each location as well as providing GPS tracking and collecting data on each dog. As teams arrived into villages they used megaphones to announce their presence and adults and children with their dogs started arriving for the vaccinations. It was really inspiring to see the teams in action and marvel at the efficiency of the process, with certificates issued and data collected for every animal vaccinated.
GRI vehicles assigned to the Phase 1 rabies programme
It was also essential to conduct a post vaccination survey which consisted of 2 teams, covering 8 areas. They recorded information regarding the number of people in the household, the number of dogs in the household (adult and puppies), the vaccination status and reasons for not being vaccinated (if they had abstained). Through this survey and the information extracted from the WVS app, we can confirm that 4,108 animals were vaccinated: 3,931 dogs and 177 cats. The post vaccination survey showed an overall vaccination coverage of 73% which achieves herd immunity and disrupts the transmission within dog populations.
This pilot project, the first rabies vaccine campaign of its kind in Zambia, has given us valuable learnings to apply towards phase 2. This will see the roll out of more vaccinations in the adjacent area and ultimately for the government to roll out in rabies hotspots country-wide.
Dog with "vaccinated" marker
Rabies vaccinations are vital. They protect wildlife and domestic animals from the disease which ultimately saves human life.
Show your support for Game Rangers International this #WorldRabiesDay