News / Health

Vaccinating Dogs Against Rabies in East Africa

Tanzanians and their dogs wait in line for free rabies vaccinations.
Tanzanians and their dogs wait in line for free rabies vaccinations.

Multimedia

Audio
By Abigail Martin

Rabies is a global health issue, claiming fifty to sixty thousand lives every year. Most of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The rabies virus is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected dog. Because children are the most susceptible to attacks by rabid dogs, they account for the vast majority of deaths.


Veterinarian Guy Palmer is conducting research in Tanzania on a sustainable rabies vaccination program.
 
Palmer explained, “If we can get around 60% we can actually control a disease outbreak. We don’t need to vaccinate every dog. We need to vaccinate somewhere around 60%. So, the question becomes, can you actually achieve that level of vaccination in a low resource setting?”

Dogs in a bicycle basket await their rabies vaccinations in Tanzania.Dogs in a bicycle basket await their rabies vaccinations in Tanzania.
x
Dogs in a bicycle basket await their rabies vaccinations in Tanzania.
Dogs in a bicycle basket await their rabies vaccinations in Tanzania.
Palmer has a PhD in infectious diseases and is an adviser to the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
 
He and his colleagues work with community leaders to arrange dog vaccination clinics. Word spreads quickly and people gather with their animals. But Dr. Palmer was surprised when he saw the dog owners.
 
“Children own these dogs,” he said. “They bring with them their vaccination cards and it’s amazing the percentage that we have that have the vaccination card from a previous trip.  We come every year to each village. In general, these families don’t have a lot of papers and certificates. They tend to put a value on those they have.”

Children in Tanzania register their dogs to receive rabies vaccinations.Children in Tanzania register their dogs to receive rabies vaccinations.
x
Children in Tanzania register their dogs to receive rabies vaccinations.
Children in Tanzania register their dogs to receive rabies vaccinations.
While the vaccination effort has been successful, Palmer says there’s more to do to make it sustainable over the long-term.
 
“We now have about 15 years of experience with this. And if you continue these vaccination campaigns, you completely suppress rabies. The challenge is how do you get away from this model we have now, which is donor driven. It costs us about three dollars to vaccinate a dog in those regions and that’s not something that’s, at the moment, sustainable by either the individuals nor by the government. Using country-wide approaches, it’s possible to actually move rabies out of a region and then vaccinate only around the periphery to control the disease.  To do that what we’ve really got to do is reduce costs,” he said.
 
About one dollar of the vaccine cost is keeping it cold. Fortunately, silk polymers have the potential to revolutionize the storage of vaccines. Strands of silk proteins are purified from silkworm cocoons and are incorporated into the vaccine serum. The silk polymers don’t affect the vaccine’s effectiveness, but they stabilize the serum so that it doesn’t degrade under high temperatures. These polymers can protect vaccines at up to 45 degrees Celsius for more than six months. The vaccines remain more than eighty percent potent despite storage at these temperatures.
 
Dr. Palmer says there’s another way to reduce costs, as well.
 
“Working with the communities to get them to vaccinate is one of the major goals we have because that will reduce one of our other major costs, which is transport. If we can actually get the vaccines there, then they can maintain them locally and do the local vaccinations,” he said.
 
Dr. Palmer’s rabies vaccination studies may present other healthcare opportunities. The vaccination clinics could also be used to provide care and treatment for children when they bring their dogs to be vaccinated.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs