PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

WSU eliminate rabies program reaches 50,000 dog vaccinations this year, saving animal and human lives

By Laura Lockard, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

While not prevalent in the United States, more than 99 percent of the people infected with rabies worldwide get it from the bite of an unvaccinated dog. Washington State University believes it can prevent those infections.

In 2016, to date WSU and their partners in the Serengeti Health Initiative have administered approximately 50,000 vaccines in Africa and project to provide over 120,000 by the end of the year, in part by developing a reliable vaccine bank and improved distribution. Since the inception of the project in 2003, this program has administered more than 500,000 vaccinations.

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Rabies is preventable, yet it kills nearly 60,000 people worldwide every year; half of them are children.

“Rabies is the deadliest disease that can be transmitted from animals to people and is, in fact, the most deadly infectious disease known to man with a case fatality rate of near 100 percent,” said Guy Palmer, a WSU Regents Professor of Pathology and the Jan and Jack Creighton Endowed Chair and Senior Director of Global Health.

“On World Rabies Day it is the recognition that among disease experts worldwide that a single global push to vaccinate and continue vaccinating as many dogs as possible will eliminate rabies among people,” added Palmer. As such the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health is working with the World Health Organization to eliminate rabies with the goal of no human deaths by 2030.

The project has an initial goal to raise $10 million to catalyze its reach to other parts of Africa. Funds raised locally and globally will be used to develop a reliable vaccine bank and improved distribution. The school also will conduct research to learn how to best work between countries where border regions are so critical.

Local to global
Through the Allen School’s Eliminate Rabies project, partners are aligning with the effort because they understand the global impact of rabies and the extraordinary opportunity available to eliminate the disease in people, including engaging veterinary clinics around the U.S.

“Logistically, we can get vaccines to the most remote parts of the world,” he said. “We can set up and provide rabies vaccination clinics. And we know the clinics are extremely popular among people who face this risk daily. With a local to global advocacy effort eliminating rabies in people globally is now completely attainable in our lifetime.”

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The Allen School is working with veterinary clinics here it the Pacific Northwest such as the Bothell Pet Hospital. The doctors at Bothell Pet Hospital are an integral part of this life saving program.  “As we educated our staff and further educated ourselves on the issue, our feelings have transformed into a dedication to teach others, and see this project through to its finish,” stated Dr. Shannon Smith, Bothell Pet Hospital veterinarian.  “Here in the Unites States, contracting rabies is not a daily concern.  Being so far removed from the problem, most of our clients don’t realize that people are still dying from this virus.” Smith added, “One client was shocked when I explained this to her and said, ‘Had I known this was a problem, I would have donated long ago!’”

About the Eliminate Rabies project
Through the Eliminate Rabies project ten dollars will vaccinate a child’s dog from rabies and distemper, another major cause of mortality in young dogs. Ask your veterinarian if they are a part of this critical program. A gift of any amount will move the effort closer to realizing a world where no child dies from canine rabies.

To help, contact Christi Cotterill, Assistant Development Director at cotterill@vetmed.wsu.edu or (206) 219-2402.