Dog rabies control
More than 3 billion people, about half the world’s population, are living in countries/territories where dog rabies still exists and are potentially exposed to rabies. It is estimated that at least 55 000 human rabies deaths occur yearly in Africa and Asia following contact with rabid dogs.
In many countries of those countries, few activities are underway to prevent rabies occurrence in humans and to control rabies in dogs, even when the number of human deaths is high. This is the case in, for example, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, and Pakistan in Asia, as well as most African, east Mediterranean, and Arabic peninsular countries. On the other hand, some countries report having improved their post-exposure treatment delivery systems in conjunction with significant activities for dog rabies control. In some countries these activities have led to a sustainable reduction in dog rabies as previously reported for Thailand, as well as South Africa, Iran, and especially in some Latin American countries (see box). In other countries (e.g., Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia) these activities have led to containment of the rabies situation. WHO promotes activities for the control and elimination of dog rabies particularly in Asia and Africa. A number of WHO documents dealing with the various aspects of a comprehensive dog rabies control programme have been developed over time.
Controlling rabies in dogs: what to do - what to avoid doing?
Further to recent reports indicating that indiscriminate mass culling of dogs is still used in certain countries as the principal measure to combat dog rabies and prevent associated human rabies the WHO wishes to reiterate the recommendations of the Expert Consultation on Rabies held in Geneva, October 2004 (TRS 931, WHO 2005):
- Dog destruction alone is not effective in rabies control. There is no evidence that removal of dogs alone has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities or the spread of rabies. In addition, dog removal may be unacceptable to local communities. However, the targeted and humane removal of unvaccinated, ownerless dogs may be effective when used as a supplementary measure to mass vaccination.
- Mass canine vaccination campaigns have been the most effective measure for controlling canine rabies. High vaccination coverage (70% or higher) can be attained through comprehensive strategies consisting among others of well-designed educational campaigns, intersectoral cooperation, community participation, local commitment in planning and execution.
- Surveillance of rabies is the basis for any programme of rabies control. Veterinary surveillance of rabies and laboratory submission of reports of suspected animal cases is also essential for management of potential human exposures and for veterinarians to adopt appropriate measures towards animals in contact with a suspected animal case.
- Efforts should be made to fully incorporate rabies control activities in all levels of the health services, aligning them with other public health programmes such as the Expanded programme on immunization and those for tuberculosis and vector-borne diseases. In this manner, synergies between programmes improve logistical use of human, material and financial resources.