Having the ability to pop into a local veterinary practice to get an animal vaccinated is certainly a luxury compared to the restraints of pet healthcare in third world countries like Africa. Here, the reliance on vaccination for both human and animal health is exceptionally high and ever present!
This year, MSD Animal Health will be helping to control the incidence of animal and human rabies in north-western Tanzania by supporting the ‘Afya Serengeti’ (means 'health of Serengeti' in Swahili) project through the supply of its rabies vaccine.
‘Afya Serengeti’, run by epidemiologist Dr Sarah Cleaveland from the Centre of Tropical Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, aims to bring widespread canine vaccination to this famous nature reserve in a bid to eradicate the rabies threat for humans and animals alike. The plight of rabies in third-world countries is much more severe than is generally recognised. Every year in Africa up to 25,000 people die from this disease – most of them children. It is disturbing to note that only 100-200 cases are officially recorded.
Rabies has also been a major factor in the decline of highly-endangered wildlife species such as the African wild dog population in the Serengeti, and with the domestic dog populations around the park growing so rapidly, the threat of disease transmission from dogs to humans continues to increase. There is good news! Controlling rabies is entirely possible. In the Serengeti, as throughout much of the developing world, dogs are the major source of infection and vaccination can effectively control the disease, not only in dogs, but also in humans, livestock and wildlife. Rabies is a totally preventable disease; the vaccines and tools are available – therefore, there is little excuse for not doing more to control it!
The sight of a Maasai morani and child embarking on an epic journey, travelling several miles carrying their pet dog to the nearest clinic to get it vaccinated is surely a true reflection of the importance of the human-animal bond in this country!
If your vet uses the rabies vaccine from MSD Animal Health, you indirectly support Afya Serengeti. If you want to do more however, you could consider a donation to the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC). The ARC is a charity that generates funding for rabies control in Asia and Africa.