Rabies Free Africa

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Working to Eliminate Rabies by 2030

Canine-mediated human rabies has the highest case fatality rate of any known infectious disease. Rabies is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. Each year more than 60,000 people die from rabies, with over 99% of the cases contracted from a dog bite. The deaths are mostly in Africa, India and other parts of Asia and one-half of the deaths occur in children under the age of 16.

The WSU Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health is working with international partners to eliminate rabies as a cause of human suffering and death as part of the Zero by 30 initiative. Combining game changing vaccine research with community-based programs, WSU leads in development and deployment of the strategies needed to eliminate rabies.

Research conducted through the Rabies Free Africa aims to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of mass-dog rabies vaccination programs. Our faculty are looking at the problem from two perspectives. In Tanzania, researchers focus on questions related to the vaccine, its efficacy under different storage and distribution conditions and developing cost effective approaches to deliver the vaccine at scale across remote landscapes. In Kenya, the focus is on strategies and tools countries can use to design mass-dog vaccination campaigns and surveillance for rabies in people and their animals where limited, or no, resources haven been previously deployed.

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The Problem

The vaccine to prevent rabies has been around for over 100 years. It is a proven, method for preventing both human and canine rabies. That is why human death from canine rabies in the developed world is virtually nonexistent. The challenge arises in countries with insufficient veterinary infrastructure and financial investments required to vaccinate enough dogs to break rabies transmission chains.

To achieve the goal identified in the Zero by 30 campaign (WHO), three factors will be important. First, the average cost of vaccinating dogs must decrease. Second, the number of vaccines available for vaccinating dogs needs to increase and reach areas endemic for rabies. Finally, the animal health work force needs to be mobilized for vaccinating dogs in developing countries. The work of the WSU Rabies Vaccination Program focuses on research to decrease the average cost of implementing vaccination campaigns and to design strategies that will enable countries to complete rabies elimination campaigns.

The Solution

To reach the goal of eliminating human death from canine rabies by 2030, the global focus needs to be on decreasing the cost of vaccinating dogs and increasing access. The implementation of programs requires involvement from governments. The likelihood of investment will increase with proven strategies that are available and relevant for the countries impacted most by the disease. The Rabies Free Africa team will continue to discover ways to decrease the cost of mass-dog vaccinations and refine country and continent-wide programs that make the best use of limited resources.

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