As vets, medics, animal health companies and animal lovers across the world came together on World Rabies Day yesterday (September 28, 2014), a drive to eradicate and control the disease in India is celebrating success.

According to Mission Rabies, the drive led by vet Luke Gamble, it has vaccinated and sterilised more than 20,000 dogs in Goa in just six months. This is the first stage of the charity’s efforts, which lasted from April to September 2014, paving the way for follow up missions in 2015 and 2016.

During its project, Dogs Trust-sponsored Mission Rabies was supported by a coalition of Goan organisations, including International Animal Rescue, People for Animals and the South Goa Welfare Trust for Animals, and in partnership with the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), managed to set up more than ten animal birth control clinics all over Goa during the course of the programme.

Here, they performed 700 to 800 surgeries each week to reach the minimum goal of 20,000 sterilised and vaccinated dogs by the end of September. Over the course of the initial programme, said the project, an average of three to four confirmed rabid dogs were picked up by the dog catching teams each week, which is the first time the prevalence of rabies in the state’s dog population has been formally recorded.

Mission Rabies staff and volunteers used smartphone technology to GPS-tag every vaccinated and sterilised dog, and conduct scientific post-vaccination surveys to ensure they had achieved 70% vaccination coverage of the dog population to prevent spread of rabies between dogs and from dogs to people. The 2015 and 2016 campaigns will now, said the project, aim to maintain this level of vaccination coverage through annual, state-wide mass vaccination drives.

Another of Mission Rabies’ aims was to raise public awareness of rabies and dog bite prevention. Visiting schools all over the state, education teams reached out to more than 70,000 children and provided them with a fun and easy-to-understand education programme, as well as providing teachers’ packs and carrying out surveys to assess the effectiveness of the education drive.

Mr Gamble said: “We have proved we can achieve what others thought was impossible. We showed the world that when we all work together, we can fight this disease – and beat it. Goa is just the beginning.”

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