Stray dogs vaccinated against rabies

Packs of stray dogs have been vaccinated against rabies as part of a joint campaign to eradicate the disease from Cambodia.

A study by the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia found that of the 800 people who died from rabies in 2007, more than 95 per cent were from dogs. Further research revealed, there is one dog for every four humans – three to four times higher than neighbouring countries.

To mark World Rabies Day, the Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation (WHO), Institut Pasteur in Cambodia and the National Veterinary Research Institute launched a mass vaccination campaign for dogs in Ta Ngal Village, Kvet Thom commune in Kampong Cham’s Precy Chhor district.

H.E. Dr Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, says, “This is a joint collaborative effort to encourage responsible dog ownership as part of a comprehensive human and dog rabies control programme that also builds awareness of the burden of rabies.”

In Cambodia, rabies is highly endemic disease in the CAMEWARN surveillance system of the Ministry of Health. If a person is bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid animal, WHO recommends immediate thorough cleansing of the wound and proper medical assessment by rabies experts who can perform post-exposure prophylaxis.

Rabies is a viral infection which causes nearly always fatal disease in humans and other warm-blooded mammals. Rabies has been nearly eliminated in many parts of the world through the mass vaccination of domestic dogs. Dog vaccinations costs as little as $0.50 per dog.

Dr Pieter Van Maaren, WHO’s representative in Cambodia, says it is vital that organisations continue to work together to wipe out rabies in Cambodia. “Controlling rabies in dogs in not without its challenges,” he says. “There needs to be more collaboration between the public health and animal health sectors. Also it is vital to get political commitment and community support.”

The Institut Pasteur in Cambodia in Phnom Penh is the national reference centre for human and animal rabies laboratory diagnosis and provided post-exposure management for 20,000 patients in 2012.