Rabies is a fatal disease that can infect all mammals, but is primarily spread by domestic dogs. Following a bite, rabies can be prevented through prompt administration of post-exposure prophylaxis. This involves a course of vaccinations administered over several weeks, together with immunoglobulins for high-risk exposures. A major challenge in low-income countries is ensuring these vaccines are available and affordable to bite victims. The risk of exposure can be reduced and rabies can be controlled at source through mass dog vaccination. Rabies has been eliminated in industrialized countries through mass dog vaccination, however in most low-income countries there has been little investment in dog vaccination and rabies continues to kill thousands of people every year.
In 2010, the Tanzanian government and the World Health Organization secured funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a large-scale rabies control programme across southern Tanzania, as part of a multi-country initiative. The overarching aim was to eliminate human rabies deaths through establishing annual mass dog vaccination campaigns across the region and improving the provision of post-exposure prophylaxis to bite victims. In Tanzania this project operates across 28 districts, including Pemba Island and covers a 150,000km2 catchment area serving around 10 million inhabitants. For more information:
With the help of close monitoring of vaccination, lives are saved Dr. Matonya
Surveillance is critical for managing preventative health services and controlling infectious diseases. Surveillance involves the routine collection, analysis and dissemination of data to guide health policy and practice. But paper-based surveillance is slow and often incomplete, therefore does not allow effective monitoring or timely responses. Surveillance for zoonotic diseases (spread from animals to humans) requires intersectoral collaboration between the health and veterinary sectors. For rabies, health workers need to report animal bites to veterinary officers to trigger outbreak investigations, and vets need to alert medical authorities to exposure risks from animal cases. Our mobile phone-based surveillance system for rabies supports around 300 healthworkers and veterinary officers to record information needed to monitor the progress of rabies control and prevention efforts in Southern Tanzania.