How pet owners can mark World Rabies Day


Vets and pet owners in the UK who inoculate animals against rabies are contributing to a major project to eliminate the disease highlighted to mark World Rabies Day this Saturday 28 September

The Afya Serengeti rabies elimination project, led by Professor Sarah Cleaveland at the University of Glasgow, is supported by MSD Animal Health and is being highlighted during World Rabies Day on Saturday 28 September.

Professor Sarah Cleaveland is the Professor of Comparative Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow and works on diseases that affect both humans and animals, looking at wild and domestic animals.

She says:  “The vaccination programme in the Serengeti National Park began in 1996 with quite a small-scale vaccination campaign.

“We had evidence that rabies was being maintained by dogs in this community so we wanted to test the theory that if we vaccinated domestic dogs we could control the disease.

“With the support of MSD Animal Health and the supply of their Rabies vaccine we were able to extend the programme.  We are currently vaccinating around 50,000 dogs a year but we now need the support of veterinarians around the world to be able to increase the number of vaccinations and extend the vaccination zone.”

David Sutton of MSD Animal Health says: “Controlling rabies is vital to the health of humans and animals in developing nations, including the Serengeti, which is why we’re committed to protecting health and saving life in the Serengeti and believe the goal of a world free of rabies is a goal worth aspiring to.”

“We started working with Professor Sarah Cleaveland and her team in the 1990s on this university-based project we have called Afya Serengeti.  Professor Cleaveland’s research has shown that domestic dogs are the main reservoir for rabies in the Serengeti.  They account for over 84 per cent of human rabies exposures.  Dogs play a crucial role in the lives of the villages so eliminating dogs is not an option.

40 per cent of the individuals bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under the age of 15 years


“We initially provided R&D support and laboratory resources to the project and an exchange of knowledge.  In 2004 we started donating our rabies vaccine to the project and by 2006 we were coordinating international support through our global office.  It is now truly a global campaign with support from 20 countries.  By 2012 we’d donated over a million doses of our rabies vaccine to this project.  We’ve seen some wide-ranging benefits as a result - the reduction in the number of cases of human and canine rabies, and a reduction in rabies in the Serengeti National Park.  A world free of rabies is achievable and we are looking at developing similar projects to Afya Serengeti.”

Karin Jager, Global Marketing Director, MSD Animal Health, responsible for global awareness of the program says:  “With Afya Serengeti we are taking action and asking for the support of veterinarians around the globe to help us rid the world of rabies.  It makes me feel good that MSD is supporting this and we hear the same from vets who are promoting the programme in their practices.”

World Rabies Day takes place each year on the 28th of September and is a great opportunity for everybody to get involved and show support for people living in communities affected by the disease as with the Afya Serengeti project.

The spread of rabies worldwide

  • Of the 55,000 people worldwide who die from rabies each year 25,000 die in Africa.
  • Most cases arise from people being bitten by rabid dogs and children are the most vulnerable.
  • 40 per cent of the individuals bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under the age of 15 years.
  • Approximately 100 children a day die of this terrible disease.
  • More than 15 million worldwide receive treatment for the disease each year yet it is 100 per cent preventable.



Published: 02:55, 26 September 2013 | Updated: 03:17, 26 September 2013