Dr Mayer says rabies is endemic in most African countries, including Zambia

RABIES is endemic in most African countries, says Mission Rabies country manager for Malawi Dagmar Mayer.

Dr Mayer provided training and expertise during the vaccination exercise where the US government working with International Rabies Taskforce, Zambian Ministry of Health, Zambia National Public Health Institute, and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock conducted a rabies vaccination campaign from September 6-18, in Kaingu chiefdom of Itezhi-Tezhi.

The 10-day vaccination campaign was conducted ahead of World Rabies Day commemorated on September 28.

According to a statement, 3,931 domestic dogs and 177 cats were vaccinated, accounting for 73 per cent vaccination coverage of the domestic dog population in the chiefdom.

It stated that the US government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported the rabies vaccination in Itezhi-Tezhi with technical assistance and $30,000 (K480,000) in vaccine support funding.

It stated that the vaccination campaign was an important first step to eliminate rabies in Zambia and attain zero dog-transmitted human rabies deaths.

CDC Zambia Laboratory advisor Sam Yingst stressed the importance of eliminating rabies in Zambia.

“Rabies is deadly. CDC exists to promote public health globally. A public health problem in Zambia impacts the world, including the United States. Addressing the rabies problem in Zambia saves lives and makes the whole world a better place,” said Dr Yingst.

Ministry of Health infectious diseases specialist Professor Lloyd Mulenga said Zambia takes elimination of rabies very seriously.

“Zambia is a signatory to the one health approach, a strategy to achieve zero human rabies deaths by 2030. This vaccination exercise here in Ithezhi-Tezhi is a timely intervention to avert disease and deaths. A one health approach is critical to eliminate the disease in people and animals,” said Prof Mulenga.

Dr Mayer said rabies was endemic in most African countries, Zambia included.

“To eliminate rabies, there is need for collaboration and a systemic approach to make impact. This vaccination campaign was a success as 73 per cent of domestic dogs and cats were vaccinated. When we eliminate rabies in dogs, we essentially are eliminating the disease,” said Dr Mayer.

Zambia has reported several rabies outbreaks in recent months due to low dog vaccination coverage.
The US government hopes the successful pilot would kick start a long-term national programme that can eliminate rabies in Zambia.

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