Dr. Ilona, Director of International Veterinary Training at our ITC in India gave a talk on World Rabies Day at the national seminar on ‘Sustainable rabies control' in the Indian state of Kerala. Ilona was making suggestions to the government on the importance of executing animal birth control (ABC) measures and developing anti-rabies vaccination (ARV) strategies in a bid to control dog-bite related rabies cases in Kerala and therefore prevent the transfer to humans.
Ilona demonstrated that large-scale rabies vaccination drives is achievable and that by doing this helps control the increase of incidences of rabies. Giving many examples of both WVS and Mission Rabies many vaccination drives, Ilona was able to prove how mass-vaccination against rabies is the main tool when controlling rabies with ABC (Animal Birth Control) work and this is the most-cost-effective way to control rabies transmission and prevent human rabies deaths.
Whilst the vaccination of thousands of dogs can be achieved in couple of weeks (as demonstrated by the 35,600 dogs vaccinated by Mission Rabies in Blantyre, earlier this year) when a well planned strategy is in place, however, it takes much longer time to get the same number of dogs sterilised.
Ilona explained that the controlling of any infectious disease is only possible when you target 'the main host species of the infectious agent' by this and in the case of the deadly rabies virus, this means that we need to control the transmission cycle in dogs by annual vaccination. Canine-mediated rabies is the most common form of rabies and kills 59,000 people globally every year.
Ilona was able to give examples of our work in areas like Ranchi, where field vaccination teams moved systematically as per maps, catching and vaccinating dogs against rabies. Ilona also highlighted our work in the Indian district of Nilgiris which has a systematic ABC-program which is run by WVS India. Launched in 2010, this programme covers also areas in and around the Nilgiris district, therefore providing a rabies-controlled zone. We are delighted to report that there has been no cases of rabies in the Nilgiris district for almost 10 years now and the annual vaccination drives of the free-roaming dogs that are in Nilgiris are able to achieve the adequate booster vaccination coverage.
The talk by Ilona was very positively received and the overall seminar was attended by over 250 delegates from across the India, including veterinarians, medical professionals and post-graduate students.
As Ilona says, when it comes to rabies control, 'where there is a will, there is a way!'.