In cooperation with the State Veterinary Services of Mpumalanga and the University of Onderstepoort, Pretoria, Vets for Change planned an annual mass sterilisation, vaccination and education campaign.
At least 24,000 people, mostly children, die of rabies in Africa every year. Dogs are the main reservoir host of this deadly virus, and the disease is endemic in large parts of South Africa. Due to the low vaccination rate of the dog population and the high human population density, the province of Mpumalanga is at high risk of new rabies infections in South Africa.
To eradicate rabies in this region, Vets for Change combined humane dog population control with a mass vaccination drive. Over a one month period, at least 25 000 dogs were vaccinated against rabies and were sterilised. The team consisted of vets and volunteers from South Africa and all over the world.
Approximately 70% of all dogs in the local communities were vaccinated. The mass vaccination of dogs is the only effective way to eradicate rabies. It’s a cost effective, humane and sustainable solution to save lives. Vaccinating such a volume of dogs in an area creates ‘herd immunity’ as the vaccinated dogs form a barrier, slowing the spread of rabies until it dies out.
Details of every vaccinated dog were collected for analysis. An official dog count has never been done in this area and for the first time, due to the GPS data collection method, Vets for Change will be able to provide the government with highly accurate figures of the dog population, numbers of rabies cases and numbers vaccinated vs non-vaccinated animals. A vaccination record was also given to each owner.
The team also educated dog owners via translators and graphic leaflets to inform them on what to do to avoid being bitten, and what to do should a dog bite them.
Neuterings were performed in two mobile veterinary ambulance units of the State Veterinary Services who supported this project. Dr Johann Kotze, State Vet and chairperson of the National Rabies Advisory Group, was the local project coordinator. The mobile units worked directly in the communities and villages to avoid people having to bring their dogs from afar.
This was the launch of an ongoing project, and will be undertaken on a regular basis to sterilise animals, and to reduce – over time – the number of infected dogs so as to really make a difference!
Also in the pipeline are education programs for the local communities on rabies and canine management. The risks of rabies, how to prevent dog bites and what to do in case someone gets bitten are but a few of the topics which will be covered along with responsible ownership, and the many benefits of sterilisation.