Namibia uses One Health for rabies control, including oral rabies vaccines for dogs

Interview with Rauna Athingo (Namibia)

The northern part of Namibia in particular has been identified as a rabies hotspot, and numerous cases of rabies, both in humans and animals (dogs and cattle in particular), have occurred there in recent years.

© Dr Rauna Athingo

In 2006, Dr Rauna Athingo started working as a state veterinarian, responsible for disease control in the Oshana region – one of the northern regions of the country where rabies inflicts a particularly heavy burden. She was able to observe how vulnerable children were exposed to rabid dogs and puppies in particular. At that time, she recalls, the Directorate of Veterinary Services had no strategy on how to deal with rabies cases, which made their job very difficult. Dr Athingo played a leading role in the development of Namibia’s National Rabies Control Strategy, which provides guidance to all veterinarians and public health professionals on how to deal with cases of rabies.

“My vision is of a Namibia free from dog-mediated rabies, saving human lives and saving the livelihoods of farmers who also suffer massive livestock losses from rabies.” – Dr Rauna Athingo, Chief Veterinarian for Animal Disease Control at the Directorate of Veterinary Services, Namibia.

Rabies is an excellent example of a disease at the animal-human-environment interface: cases in dogs, humans and livestock are directly correlated. To make rabies elimination possible, different sectors must therefore collaborate and work together.

Namibia uses One Health for rabies control, including oral rabies vaccines for dogs© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI)

In 2015, to do just that, and to try to cope with the growing number of rabies cases, Namibia started implementing a One Health approach. Competent authorities have identified the need for collaboration across sectors and have completely changed their approach to rabies control, improving coordination and collaboration as well as communication at the human-animal-environment interface. Representatives from various sectors, such as human and animal health, education, environment and academia, participated in the formulation of Namibia’s strategy. Many activities have been implemented within the framework of the One Health approach, both at the national level and in cooperation with neighboring countries such as Angola.

Private and public sector commitments have enabled Namibia to achieve the global goal of zero cases of dog-mediated rabies by 2030, raise community awareness and improve accessibility to post-exposure prophylaxis , especially among children and poor communities, since rabies has devastating effects not only on health but also on livelihoods. Financial burdens for bite victims, for example, include direct travel costs, as a number of trips to a health facility are required to complete the post-exposure prophylaxis program, as well as the loss of income that may result. of the exhibition. On top of that, exposure to rabies can place a heavy psychological burden on families, and dogs can also be associated with this traumatic experience, resulting in long-term fear for humans.

Given these economic, social and individual implications, controlling rabies at its source (i.e. the dogs themselves) is cheaper than providing post-exposure prophylaxis. It also helps to empower communities – if community members understand the dangers of rabies and ways to control it, they themselves can help save lives.

Dr Athingo’s message is clear: “Banish rabies from Namibia – get your pet vaccinated”.

Namibia uses One Health for rabies control, including oral rabies vaccines for dogs
© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI)

Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI) – Use of Oral Rabies Vaccines (Value and Use)

For more than five years now, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) has been supporting Namibia’s efforts to control rabies in various areas. In addition to carrying out evaluations, epidemiological analyzes and capacity building at the laboratory level, vaccination received particular attention.

Currently, rabies elimination efforts rely on the mass vaccination of dogs parenterally, which means injecting a dose of rabies vaccine under the skin. Vaccination campaigns usually rely on owners bringing their dog to vaccination points. However, stray and stray dogs are sometimes difficult to catch and this means that vaccination goals, to control rabies in the dog population, may not be achieved.

To increase herd immunity, these stray and stray dogs should be specifically targeted with vaccination campaigns, and oral rabies vaccination (ORV) of dogs is a possible solution in such cases.

Namibia uses One Health for rabies control, including oral rabies vaccines for dogs
© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI)

With safe, effective and well-accepted oral vaccine baits available, ORV has the potential to be a game-changer in situations where parenteral vaccination alone cannot stop transmission within the canine population..” – Dr. Conrad Freuling, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Before using the vaccine in a larger field trial, colleagues at FLI, in collaboration with the University of Namibia, tested the immune responses elicited by oral vaccine baits in local populations of Thai and Namibian dogs. 1.2.

In a field trial in communal areas of northern Namibia, veterinary staff and dog owners expressed their appreciation for this particular approach to vaccination. With regard to oral vaccination, however, the acceptance of baits must be taken into account. Dogs will only go for “tasty” bait. Fortunately for the trial, a large number of dogs who were offered bait were interested. They ingest them and are then considered vaccinated. 3.

VROs can complement current parenteral vaccination strategies and go a long way in compensating for the lack of access to crucial parts of dog populations that rabies elimination programs must contend with.

Dr. Thomas Müller of the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute said: “The partnership with our Namibian colleagues has been and continues to be very fruitful. We are confident that the promising results of our field evaluations of VROs will pave the way for other countries in Africa and beyond to integrate VROs into their rabies control programs.

Namibia uses One Health for rabies control, including oral rabies vaccines for dogs
© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI)
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