A workshop on Rabies Elimination for ASEAN countries

On February 25-26, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, GARC hosted the 1st Asia Regional Workshop on Rabies Elimination. The meeting was the first in a series that are supported by the UBS Optimus Foundation and will contribute to the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) efforts towards their goal of rabies elimination from the region by 2020.

The meeting aimed to provide a platform for building partnerships, facilitating information sharing, and contributing to capacity-building in ASEAN countries for rabies prevention and control. It brought together 35 participants from seven countries, including government representatives, academic institutions and the business sector, and featured workshops on key topics: the Rabies Blueprint; Rabies Education program recently initiated by GARC; and the Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination. It also provided an opportunity for country feedback on these approaches, an exchange of information and the sharing of experiences and lessons learned in rabies control in the region.

The role and initiatives of various organizations were articulated. OIE plays a key role in setting standards for rabies prevention and control and the requirements for rabies freedom. FAO has developed the Stepwise Approach on Rabies Elimination that can be used by the countries in their planning. World Animal Protection shared its experiences on appropriate dog population management. Humane Society International provided its expertise on dog ecology and behavior and on its insights and experiences on dog sterilization. GARC shared developments in their information, communication and education resources. In-country initiatives have been supported in different ways by these various organizations.

Indonesia showcased its efforts in bringing together various sectors from the national to the local level and to promote community involvement to address the rabies problem in Indonesia. The Philippines shared their legal framework to support and strengthen rabies prevention and control and highlighted the importance of multisectoral involvement.

Insights shared on the realities and challenges in the surveillance of human rabies and the need for linking data on the biting animal with that of an animal bite victim or a human rabies case.  It was emphasized that in certain aspects, rabies could be integrated into a laboratory diagnostic set-up for encephalitis until a definitive diagnosis for rabies is reached. 

The Philippine experience demonstrated that with support and political will from decision-makers, a decentralized system of Animal Bite Treatment Centers located can increase access, promote affordability and ensure delivery of quality of Rabies Post-exposure Prophylaxis. Additionally, the nationwide adoption of the intradermal regimen has greatly reduced the vaccine required per patient.  The government of Thailand have taken steps to ensure appropriate management of animal bite cases through their guidelines as they move forward with developing a road map that is based on specific areas’ situation on rabies, in line with the ASEAN Rabies Elimination Strategy.

Participants were asked to carry out a rapid assessment of their respective countries’ efforts for rabies prevention and control, and there is recognition that the countries have different levels of progress in addressing rabies, and have wide gaps in resources and capacities between the countries. With the increased recognition of available resources, in terms of information, initiatives and projects and potential partnerships, the foundation is built on which to advance progress in the region, and organizations and countries should work together with the aim of maximizing the use of available resources for rabies prevention and control.

The activities will be complemented by those at the related PARACON meeting scheduled for June in Africa.

Written by Dr. Ning Villa of the GARC Philippines office who coordinated the meeting.