WSU Rabies Vaccination Program

Dr. Felix Lankester at a Maasai Boma
photo credits: Anna Czupryna and Felix Lankester

"Eliminating rabies is a win-win-win for people, dogs and endangered wildlife." —Felix Lankester, clinical assistant professor for the Allen School

The WSU Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health works with international partners to help reduce the threat of rabies to people in and around the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania. The goal is to use this rabies-free vaccination zone—a cordon sanitaire—as a model in other parts of Africa and Asia.

Rabies is the deadliest zoonotic disease on the planet. Each year more than 59,000* people die from rabies. The deaths are mostly in Africa, India, and other parts of Asia where 99 percent of rabies cases are found. One-half of deaths are children under the age of 16.

Since the rabies project began, the human incidence of rabies in the vaccination zone has been reduced to zero. The vaccination zone is a belt of land 10 kilometers wide (or about six miles) that stretches approximately 1,100 kilometers all the way around the Serengeti National Park in East Africa, covering a total area of approximately 11,000 square kilometers. Domestic dogs are the reservoir for the disease in Africa and Asia. Vaccinating dogs around the Serengeti prevents rabies from spilling into the park and also protects endangered lions and other wildlife from the disease.

Felix Lankester, clinical assistant professor for the Allen School, and the rabies team vaccinate hundreds of dogs each day. Some days it is as many as 1,000 dogs. They visit 180 villages every year in seven districts adjacent to the Serengeti. They never turn anyone away.

The disease is easily preventable with regular dog vaccinations, or by a series of post-bite vaccinations starting within the first 24 hours after a person is bitten by a rabid dog. But once symptoms appear, the disease is always fatal. 

Please join us in our efforts to eliminate rabies worldwide. To find out how you can help, contact Christie Cotterill, assistant director of development, at or 206-219-2402..

Rabies Project Partners

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago researchers Lisa Faust and Anna Czupryna
University of Glasgow researchers Sarah Cleaveland, Katie Hampson, and Tiziana Lembo
MSD Animal Health (vaccine donations)
Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute
Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority
Serengeti Health Initiative field staff Dr. Imam Mzimbiri, Machunde Bigambo, Israel Silaa, and Paulo Tango

*Source: Hampson K, Coudeville L, Lembo T, Sambo M, Kieffer A, Attlan M, et al. (2015) Estimating the Global Burden of Endemic Canine Rabies. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 9(4): e0003709. doi:10.1371/journal. pntd.0003709