Rabies is seriously scary.
Occurring in more than 150 countries and territories, this fatal disease causes the death of tens of thousands of people every year (WHO, 2014).
Incidence of rabies can result in widespread fear and panic; and since dogs are the number one source of human rabies deaths worldwide (WHO, 2014), they are often at the epicenter of both the problem and the solution.
But stopping the spread of rabies doesn’t start with dogs and, in fact, it doesn’t even start with a rabies vaccine.
Bringing an end to rabies starts with people.
Behind every cull or vaccination campaign are decisions – by organizations, leaders, and community members – about how to proceed.
Unfortunately, that often means knee-jerk reactions and cruel culling of dogs, like we’ve seen in Bali, Indonesia and Shaanxi Province, China.
When officials and decisions-makers react in panic, they often ignore the facts and perpetuate cycles of fear and cruelty through inaccurate information and indiscriminate killing. Despite clear scientific evidence that massive dog culling simply won’t eliminate or control rabies, people and animals continue to suffer as a result.
The power of individual people to make decisions about rabies interventions can result in cruelty and culling, but can also offer us the greatest opportunity to save lives.
When a rabies positive dog is found in a village, every other dog depends on the knowledge and compassion of human leaders and informed individuals to curb the panic.
When a child is bitten by a rabid dog and needs post-exposure prophylaxis or immunoglobulin (RIG), they are depending on the choices made by leaders in their communities and their countries to ensure they can get the care they need.
IFAW believes that individual people and animals matter.
Through our projects around the world we help community members understand how to protect themselves and their animals from rabies, and give them the tools to do so.
We’ve seen the power of this knowledge in IFAW’s recent efforts to vaccinate thousands of dogs and cats in Playa del Carmen, our work to eradicate rabies from Bali, and efforts to protect people and animals from rabies in the Philippines as well as in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Rabies is scary, but the road to eradicate rabies is not.
Vaccines combined with targeted campaigns offer an easy choice; and as long as leaders make evidenced-based decisions to protect communities, and compassionate choices to ensure that people and animals are safe, there is no reason to live in fear.
Though dogs have long been at the epicenter of many a rabies crisis, the solution is in human hands. In celebration of World Rabies Day, let us remember that the opportunity to end rabies is ours. The more people who know the facts about rabies the more influence we can collectively have on eradicating the disease.
Be part of the solution.
Read and share IFAW’s Practical Guide to Understanding the Risks and Prevention of Rabies in People and Dogs with leaders in your community.
Article source: IFAW