Asian rabies experts emphasize the need to work together and to involve communities

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Rabies experts from 12 Asian countries gathered for 3 days in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for the Ninth annual meeting of the Asian Rabies Expert Bureau(AREB). They discussed the rabies situation in their respective countries, as well as strategies to achieve elimination of dog-transmitted human rabies and how to implement them. Successful pilot projects were presented, emphasizing the need for multisectoral collaboration,including community active involvement and empowerment, as well as commitmentand cooperation of the ministries of Health (MOH) and Agriculture (MOAG).

This strategy has proved effective in Bali,historically “rabies-free” island, where a rabies outbreak claiming over 140 human lives since 2008 has now been brought under control. “Coordination mechanisms have been established at the provincial and district/municipality levels between the MOH, MOAG and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA); joint teams of the MOH and MOAG are investigating rabies cases; 58 rabies prevention centers for animal bite management have been established in Bali, and health workers have been trained to rabies vaccination of bite victims”, Dr Rita Kusriastuti, Director of VBDC MoH Indonesia, said. “In order to prevent and control rabies at the source, mass vaccination campaigns of dogs have been carried out together with humane dog population management and promotion of pet ownership responsibility”, Dr Pudjiatmoko, Director of Animal Health in DG of Livestock and Animal Health MoAG, added. Communities were empowered through information, education and communication. As a result, the number of human rabies cases has been dramatically reduced.


Several “success stories” from different Asian countries were presented. The Bohol Rabies Project, a landmark field project in the Philippines supported by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), has demonstrated that rabies can be eliminated and children saved by empowering communities to take responsibility, and bringing different sectors of society (educators,physicians, veterinarians, government officials, community leaders and the general public) to work on a common goal. In Bohol, thanks to coordinated initiatives over 70% of dogs have been registered and vaccinated and education on rabies prevention and responsible dog ownership has been integrated into elementary schools curriculum. Bohol model has been recognized by the President of the Philippines for its excellence (Galing Pook award, 2011) and is being adapted to other rabies endemic areas in South-East Asia. In Indonesia, for example, CARE (Communities Against Rabies Exposure) Project, derived from Bohol model, has been recently launched in Nias Island, North Sumatra and is expected to contribute to rabies elimination using a similar intersectoral approach. “Nias project will concentrate on dog vaccination work collaborativelly with Directorate General of livestock and animal health MoAG,as well as on prevention of human rabies with MoH in a concept of One Health”,explained Dr Rita Kusriastuti.


Another example came from India, with the Adopt a Village Project,carried out in several villages in the rural area South-East of Bangalore. An education and awareness program was conducted for people living at daily risk of rabies. This involved communicating facts about rabies via messengers(school teachers, health care workers, local leaders) and media (posters,television, etc.) to dispel myths and encourage behaviour change. Schoolchildren took part in a drawing competition and learned about rabies playing specially developed games. Numerous initiatives have been undertaken to convey rabies knowledge to general population: educational videos shown regularly in the local television network and in schools, murals displaying key messages painted on houses, and many others. Local leaders and women from Self Health Groups were recruited to implement these activities in their own villages and their continued involvement is crucial in sustaining anti-rabies activities now that the project has been completed.

On8-10 October, Indonesia will commemorate World Rabies Day. The celebrations, led by religious leaders, will take place in Maumere, Sikka District, EastNusa Tenggara Province where several innovative anti-rabies actions have been taken.

This is a press release from AREB. AREB, founded in 2004, is an informal network of rabies experts from 12 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia,China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka,Thailand, and Viet Nam. AREB is committed to contributing to rabies elimination in Asia. For more information about AREB, please contact Dr Rita Kusriastuti, Director VBDC at [email protected] or DrBetty Dodet, AREB coordinator, at [email protected]