Coronavirus has affected us all but there are still countries threatened by an ancient and deadly disease – rabies.
In the UK, some of the biggest problems facing pets are loneliness, obesity and stress. But in countries like Malawi, pets are still threatened by rabies.
Today, UK-based charity Mission Rabies are launching their new campaign aiming to put an end to the deadly disease once and for all.
Dogs are the most common transmitter of rabies. A shocking 99% of all human cases worldwide are caused by an infected dog bite.
The disease causes immense suffering and once symptoms develop, there is virtually no chance of survival. In Malawi alone, nearly 500 people die each year due to rabies, as well as countless dogs. These are not just strays but pets too.
Mr Banda, from Ndirande in southern Malawi, recently experienced the devastating disease first-hand.
Having grown up in one of the hotspots for rabies in Africa, he knew the importance of the canine rabies vaccine and in August, attended Mission Rabies’ free annual vaccination clinic with his two dogs.
Sadly though, just just two weeks later, one of his dogs became ill. The dog was behaving oddly, refusing to eat and could barely get off the floor.
His symptoms soon worsened, he began salivating and became paralysed. Luckily, Mr Banda recognised the signs and called the Mission Rabies team.
The experts visited his home, to find his dog laying on the ground. His body was restless, he was panting heavily, convulsing and clearly in a lot of stress.
He wasn’t interested in food or water. It was quite clear that the dog was rabid – and as symptoms had already developed, there was no hope. The only thing the vet could do was end his suffering.
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A test of tissue sample later confirmed that he was positive with rabies, and must have become infected prior to vaccination. Mr Banda’s other dog was quarantined as a precaution but luckily no symptoms developed.
Malawi Country Manager for Mission Rabies, Dr Dagmar Mayer said: “This case is a great example of how easily rabies is spread and why our preventive measures are so important: vaccinations, education and surveillance. The owner’s quick response to his suspicions may have just saved his life, his family, and the other pet.
“Mr Banda’s dogs were just two of more than 83,000 dogs we have vaccinated against rabies since July, across southern Malawi, in three districts.
"This year, the vaccination campaign has been considerably more challenging with our teams working to simultaneously protect communities from two deadly viruses: rabies and now coronavirus.
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"We’re taking all preventative measures whilst vaccinating as many dogs as possible.”
As almost all human rabies cases are caused by an infected dog bite, Mission Rabies is focussing their efforts into vaccinating dogs, and tackling the disease at its source.
By vaccinating dogs, it is possible to establish herd immunity, break the rate of transmission and save the lives of innocent children every day.
The charity has been able to significantly reduce the number of human deaths in Malawi, the majority of which are children under the age of 15. They have a proven solution but need funding to eliminate the disease worldwide.
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) set a target of no human deaths from rabies by 2030. To meet this, Mission Rabies is vaccinating dogs, sending over 300 trained volunteers to rabies hot spots every year and launching their new campaign called ‘The Final Rabies Generation’ today for ‘World Rabies Day’ to raise vital awareness and funding.
Mission Rabies’ CEO, Luke Gamble, said: “Every year, millions of people receive rabies vaccinations to enable them to travel to rabies endemic countries. No-one thinks about the people living in these countries, who can’t afford those vaccinations themselves. In many countries, they can’t even access them.
“Rabies has a devastating impact on children and their families in many parts of the world – and we need to change that. With The Final Rabies Generation campaign, we’re putting rabies on the agenda, both so that children living in fear of this deadly disease can have hope for the future, and so that everyone realises this is a shared mission we can achieve together.”
- World Health Organisation
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