World Veterinary Service’s Mission Rabies initiative vaccinates more than 60,000 dogs in India in just 28 days, demonstrating it is possible to run “effective mass vaccination campaigns” against the disease.

An initiative aimed at reducing the incidence of rabies in India has vaccinated more than 60,000 dogs in the country against the disease in just 28 days.

Mission Rabies has successfully vaccinated more than 60,000 dogs in India from the diseases in just 28 days.According to Mission Rabies, this success – which equates to 70% coverage in target areas – demonstrates it is possible “to run effective mass vaccination campaigns and offer a solution” to combatting the disease.

India is the world’s rabies hotspot, with more than a third of reported human cases occurring there and someone dying every 30 minutes from the disease – 99% of these cases are caused by dog bites from infected animals.

Mission Rabies – which is run by the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) – says India’s efforts to eradicate the disease by killing dogs has not worked, and has instead made the situation worse. The initiative is therefore hoping to change this by vaccinating at least 70% of the canine population in rabies endemic areas, “a proportion necessary for control of the disease in both dogs and humans”.

During September, the campaign targeted 12 of the country’s worst affected areas, with groups of overseas volunteers and local staff treating a total of 60,304 dogs.

WVS’ chief executive Luke Gamble called for national action from India to build on the initiative’s success.

“These campaigns could save the Indian economy millions,” he said. “Post-exposure vaccines cost more $25m a year, while the actual cost of running these campaigns is $5m.

Luke Gamble with the Mission Rabies truck.“With funding from the Indian Government, we could wipe out rabies in India, saving many more human lives and hundreds of thousands of dogs.”

The work of Mission Rabies is carried out using a customised Mercedes Zetros 6×6, donated to India by Dogs Trust. The truck, said the initiative, is the world’s most high-tech, all-terrain, self-sufficient mobile veterinary hospital vehicle, fully equipped to run training programmes and outreach campaigns in any location in India. The project, meanwhile, will set up India’s first national rabies network, supplying subsidised, effective vaccines and recording their usage.

Dogs Trust chief executive Clarissa Baldwin said: “WVS and Dogs Trust have together had a presence in India since 2010, when the International Training Centre was launched in Southern India to train vets in dog population management, neutering techniques and vaccination.

“We are confident this combination will help to eliminate rabies in India.”

For more information, visit Mission Rabies’ website.

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