The science of why we vaccinate dogs

Complicated science, simple solution

Over 99% of human rabies cases are caused by an infected dog bite.

This simple statement is the answer to ending the terror of one of the world's oldest diseases.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease, this means it can travel from animals to humans, in the case of rabies, this is most commonly through dogs. It is spread to through bites or can be spread through contact of saliva with a wound such as a scratch.

But it is preventable.

The human vaccine for rabies is expensive and often not accessible for those who need it most.

By stopping dogs from getting the disease, we can in turn stop humans from getting it, creating a better life for dogs and people.

This may sound too simple a solution for a disease that kills 59,000 people each year, 40% of those under the age of 15. But it works.

In the State of Goa in India there have been no human deaths from rabies in nearly three years, thanks to Mission Rabies programme of canine vaccination, surveillance and education working in close collaboration with the Government of Goa. It means that Goa is on track to be declared India's first rabies-free state – in a country that accounts for a third of all known rabies deaths.

The answer to eliminating rabies for good may be simple, the science is anything but. The vaccine, and techniques to ensure it is effectiveness have been developed and perfected, and now is the time to eliminate rabies for good.

Complicated science, simple solution

Thanks to the current COVID-19 pandemic, you are no doubt aware of the language of disease control, including R numbers and herd immunity. With rabies, these are phrases which they're no less important – driving forward our approach.

When Mission Rabies begins working in a rabies hotspot the first thing to establish is the R number for that area. The R number is the average number of other dogs that one infected dog passes the disease onto. This can be influenced by many factors including the movement of dogs in a region and the make-up of the dog population. By monitoring dog populations in the area, we can establish the best approach to ensure as many dogs as possible are vaccinated.

The vaccination stage can take many forms and is tailored to the best approach for the specific region, but in all cases the aim is to vaccinate 70% of dogs within the area every year, reducing the R number and creating a high enough level of herd immunity to wipe rabies out.

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Mission Rabies
4 Castle Street
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Tel: +44 (0) 1725 557225

Mission Rabies is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (1162293)

Mission Rabies USA, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization – EIN 81-5065473

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