This year Vets without Borders is launching a new rabies campaign in Laos. Many people and agencies who work with rabies recognise that despite being a fatal disease, it is often neglected by funding agencies and health programs. Yet the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Call for Action to eliminate rabies by 2020 is a promising backdrop. Rabies prevention is complex and is a perfect example of a ‘One Health’ problem which can be best addressed using ‘Ecohealth’ approaches.
Rabies is endemic in Laos and although there is no up to date surveillance data, a 2002 study in Vientiane showed that only 48% of sampled dogs had been vaccinated against rabies: recommended coverage to eliminate rabies from a population is at least 70%.
This October, the Laos VEVEP project, through the National University of Laos, will mobilise our 33 Primary Animal Health Workers to vaccinate dogs in their villages and reach maximum coverage. Dog vaccination is shown to be the cheapest and most effective way to prevent rabies. Its impact is even greater when combined with public education, responsible dog ownership, dog population management and access to human vaccine for bite victims. Long-term vet volunteer Anne Drew will be leading the team in October to help fight rabies in Laos, and cooperating with other agencies in the country. Let’s make rabies history!