Mission Rabies set to vaccinate dogs in Blantyre city

By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza

Mission Rabies, a project of Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS), says it is set to vaccinate between 25,000 and 35,000 dogs during this year’s dog rabies vaccination campaign which is scheduled to be launched on Saturday in Blantyre city.

Country director for Mission Rabies Inga Mc Dermott disclosed this ahead of the launch of the five weekends annual systematic dog vaccinations campaign.

Mc Dermott, who described the program as an important step towards protecting the health of Blantyre city residents and their pets, has therefore, urged all dog owners to bring their animals forward for vaccination to help keep their community life safe.

“Dog owners will have easy access to vaccination clinics at strategic locations throughout the city, enabling them to make sure their pets  receive the required rabies protection,

“Only if at least 70 percent of all dogs are vaccinated, herd immunity can be achieved and the disease can be eliminated in the city,” she explained.

Mc Dermott added that to prevent human rabies deaths in the city, the disease needs to be eliminated by targeting the most important source of transmission dogs.

She said the tenth annual systematic dog vaccinations campaign would be carried out for only five weekends and is aimed to stop the spread of the deadly disease in Blantyre city and shield it’s citizens from possible exposure.

In a separate interview, director for Malawi operations of the project Dr Dagmar Mayer said when  mission rabies started conducting  the surveillance, dog bite investigating and contract tracing in 2019, the team has diagnosed around 60 cases of dog  rabies a  year in Blantyre.

She said now there are roughly 5 to 10 cases found in the city in one year.

Mayer said cases of human rabies in the past was very high as well with 10 children dying of rabies in a 9 month time period in 2012 but now there has only been one child who died in Blantyre in the past 3 years.

“But it is still very important that we continue vaccinating as many dogs as possible as we still find rabid dogs in the city. Most often it’s when people buy a dog in other districts with no previous vaccination,” she said.

According to Mayer, the dogs sold on the side of the road are also a huge public health concern as they are not vaccinated and buying them could potentially put the entire family at the deadly risk rabies.

“We are always targeting at least 70 percent of the dog population in each area we are working in. For Blantyre city this is usually between 25,000 to 35,000 dogs every year. We are then conducting post vaccination surveys to assess coverage and have been meeting our target of more than 70 percent every year,” Mayer said.

According to various studies, Rabies is 100 percent fatal once symptoms develop, making it a persistent public health concern.