World Rabies Day events raise global awareness of rabies prevention efforts

Photo: Republic of Kenya Zoonotic Disease Unit

To support its goal of “Rabies: Zero by 30”, GARC called on governments, organisations and individuals to hold events for World Rabies Day 2017 that would create positive ripple effects throughout their communities to improve rabies awareness.

The response from the rabies community was resounding. Local citizens banded together with government officials, university lecturers, local NGOs, veterinary professionals and students. This resulted in 229 events being held in 56 countries, all to mark World Rabies Day.

Numerous mass animal vaccination drives, including events in South Africa, the United States and India, were held across several continents. They were held in both rabies-endemic and rabies-free countries. This underscores the importance of rabies-related events even in unaffected countries for these nations to remain rabies-free.

Photo: Carlie Rooivlag Rabies

Many of these drives were complemented by rabies-awareness campaigns. Exhibitions were attended, pamphlets were distributed, post-awareness quizzes were taken and aced, and lots of fun, food and drink were involved. Some creative souls seized the opportunity to get fit and exercise their dogs at the same time. For instance, a 10-kilometre National Awareness Run for Rabies was organised in Kenya. Also, a fun fair was organised in the Philippines, in conjunction with rabies-awareness education, free vaccinations, games and snacks. Several fashionistas also got the opportunity to show off their impeccably dressed dogs in the Dog Gone Cute fashion show in the Philippines. Participants were required to show proof of good dog ownership, including up-to-date rabies vaccinations.

Children have long been identified as a particularly vulnerable population for rabies exposures. It was heartening to see that that several people recognized this and organised activities aimed at children. In Taiwan, a 24-page children’s manga comic on rabies was created by the National Taiwan University and Japan’s Kyoto Sekai University. The Taiwanese government has also expanded the elementary school curriculum to include rabies awareness, especially for children in mountainous regions. Teenagers were not excluded; an inter-public high school mural painting contest was organised in Manila, Philippines, where teen artists were invited to draw and paint their interpretation of the “Zero by 2020” theme. (The Philippines hopes to be rabies-free by 2020.)

Photo: Miss Fei Shih-Huai and Mr. Mitsuru Sugaya

Rabies-centered media talk shows were prevalent over the past few months. For instance, a news segment, “Let’s Talk about Rabies” was televised in Nigeria on 28th September. Radio shows were also held in several countries such as Kenya, India, France, and the Philippines. These broadcasts would have greatly benefitted the populations in rabies-endemic countries, and they complemented the intense awareness campaigns in rural and remote areas.  

World Rabies Day was a chance to reinforce the One Health concept amongst medical and veterinary professionals. The Caribbean Animal Health Network organised webinars and workshops and devised a “Keep Rabies Out” toolkit for Caribbean public health officials to improve rabies surveillance, control and prevention efforts in the region. Webinars were also organised by the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, the OIE in Tunisia, the Pasteur Institute in Iran, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. The Animal Hospital Complex in Oyo, Nigeria organised monthly meetings for medical and veterinary doctors to share information with each other, and also consult with townspeople.

World Rabies Day 2017 proved that power and status were not needed to make a big difference. Event organisers showed that with passion and a dash of creativity, huge strides can be made in the fight against rabies while having fun at the same time.

Contributed by Dr. Jnaneepriya Krishnasamy, GARC volunteer