A pastor and his dog, Yabello, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

World Zoonoses Day is commemorated on 6 July every year to mark the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a deadly zoonotic disease. The day is also an occasion to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be spread between animals and people.

On this year’s World Zoonoses Day, we highlight a new research study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (July 2020) that reports on the development, implementation and effectiveness of grassroots mass dog vaccination campaigns against rabies conducted in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Laikipia County, Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Globally, rabies causes an estimated cost of US$ 8.6 billion per year. Dog bites are responsible for 99% of all cases of human rabies. Therefore, vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective way to prevent rabies in people.

The research study found that while grassroots volunteer-based dog vaccination campaigns against rabies can be useful, these efforts need to be supported at a larger scale by county and national governments for a more sustainable approach towards eradicating the disease. Below is the author summary.

“Given the importance of mass vaccinations of domestic dogs towards eliminating human rabies in Africa and the site-specific challenges facing such campaigns, additional studies on the development and implementation of such efforts are needed.

One mechanism of mass vaccination lies in grassroots efforts that often begin at a very local scale and either develop into larger campaigns, remain local, or cease to persist past several years once interest and funding is exhausted.

Here, we discuss the development of a grassroots campaign in Laikipia County, Kenya from its local inception to its development into a county-wide rabies elimination effort.

Our results highlight challenges associated with achieving the targeted 70% coverage rate, including a need for consistent and systematic demographic monitoring of dog populations, limitations of the central point method, and logistical and financial challenges facing a volunteer-based effort.

Serious political commitment from both the local and national governments are necessary to take the budget beyond what a crowdfunded campaign can raise, including availability and access to quality dog rabies vaccines.

Without such outside support and substantial time to grow, grassroots campaigns might be better relegated to raising awareness and vaccinating dogs in small communities to protect those communities directly, without contributing to the broader ecosystem-wide transmission-stopping aim often sought by government human health and veterinary organizations.”

Citation

Ferguson, A.W., Muloi, D., Ngatia, D.K., Kiongo, W., Kimuyu, D.M., Webala, P.W., Olum, M.O., Muturi, M., Thumbi, S.M., Woodroffe, R., Murugi, L., Fèvre, E.M., Murray, S. and Martins, D.J. 2020. Volunteer based approach to dog vaccination campaigns to eliminate human rabies: Lessons from Laikipia County, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 14(7): e0008260.

Taking sheep for disease testing in Bako, Ethiopia
Taking sheep for disease testing in Bako, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Barbara Wieland).

World Zoonoses Day is marked annually on 6 July to commemorate the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against a zoonotic disease when he treated a young boy who had been mauled by a rabid dog. The day is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that are spread between animals and people. 

Scientists estimate that 60% of known infectious diseases in people and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases in people are transmitted from animals. Neglected zoonoses associated with livestock, such as brucellosis and cysticercosis, impose a huge health burden on poor people and reduce the value of their livestock assets.

Through its Animal and Human Health program, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) carries out research with national and international partners towards improving the control of zoonotic diseases through a range of tools and approaches such as risk mapping and risk targeting, modelling of zoonotic pandemics, decision-support tools and advice on vaccination strategies. The program also generates evidence for policymakers on the cost and impact of zoonoses and the benefits of their prevention.

Some of our collaborative research on zoonoses includes work on developing optimal vaccination strategies for Rift Valley fever in East Africa, studying the epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in Nairobi and developing an effective surveillance program for zoonoses in livestock in Kenya.

For an in-depth look, listed below are some of our research publications on zoonoses:

For more information on ILRI’s research on zoonoses, contact Bernard Bett, senior scientist at ILRI (b.bett@cgiar.org) or Eric Fèvre, professor of veterinary infectious diseases, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool on joint appointment at ILRI (eric.fevre@liverpool.ac.uk).