Like catching lightning — global campaign to end rabies now

By Richard B. Chipman, CWB®, USDA Wildlife Services, National Rabies Management Coordinator

Dr. Ad Vos speaks with a resident about the study to determine preferred flavors in a collaborative study conducted by Wildlife Services, the Navajo Nation, Dr. Scott Bender, and vaccine company IDT. ©USDA

The time has come to “end rabies now” and we have the tools and strategies to do it, according to a growing coalition of global rabies experts. After close to 4,000 years of living with this deadly disease and its significant impacts on human and animal health, an interdisciplinary team of doctors of human and veterinary medicine, wildlife biologists and others are joining forces to stamp out rabies as we know it. Under the leadership of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), a diversity of government and institutional partners, including the USDA Wildlife Services, have come together to promote and implement the End Rabies Now campaign.

Author Rich Chipman, CWB, offers baits to dogs in a study testing preferred bait flavors in oral rabies vaccines. ©USDA

Author Rich Chipman, CWB, offers baits to dogs in a study testing preferred bait flavors in oral rabies vaccines. ©USDA

A neglected disease of poverty, rabies remains a very real threat for millions of people throughout the world, claiming a human life every nine minutes. Rabies is 99.9% fatal. More than half of human rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age as a result of being bitten by an infected dog. Rabies is also 100% preventable. The campaign’s call to action goal focuses on raising awareness of global rabies control and elimination efforts as well as implementing specific local programs to end human deaths due to dog-transmitted rabies by 2030. Success will require coordinated and concerted efforts including mass animal vaccination, improved access and availability of human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, community-based rabies education and outreach, and rabies surveillance, diagnosis and control program monitoring.

Wildlife biologists will continue to play a key role in global rabies elimination, working at the domestic animal and wildlife interface to manage rabies at its source in terrestrial wildlife populations and free-ranging dog populations through the strategic application of oral rabies vaccination.

“End Rabies Now” showcases the significant benefits of taking a “One-Health” approach to fighting a zoonotic disease at the local, regional and global scale. Experience has shown that when the right organizations and experts, including wildlife biologists, come together, sharing expertise to solve real world problems, it can be like capturing lightning in a bottle. It creates a synergistic environment full of focused energy; power and illumination of ideas that might otherwise not reach the spotlight and much-needed attention of governments, countries and institutions. The campaign is already having an impact. To find out more go to: https://endrabiesnow.org/.

Click here to see a video from the Global Alliance for Rabies Control of dogs being vaccinated.

Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of TWS.