The Humane Society International and Activating Africa collaborated on a rabies awareness and vaccination project, to compile the required resources that will help streamline the efforts of those working to stop the spread of rabies.
Rabies is a viral illness that can affect humans and other mammals. The virus infects the central nervous system and, once individuals show signs of the disease, it’s almost always fatal. Any mammal can contract the rabies virus. The rabies virus is found in the brain, spinal cord, and saliva (spit) of an infected animal and is spread when these items touch broken skin, open wounds, or the eyes, mouth, or nose. In most cases, rabies is spread by the bite of an infected animal; however, there have been cases where contact (non-bite exposures) with the virus led to rabies infection.
We were thrilled when we, as Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), were contacted to be part of this project. One of the first things we did was donate four 40kg bags of Jock dog food, which would be given to dog owners on vaccination day.
Being in a rural area, one of the challenges facing the community is that dogs tend to roam freely and breed at an alarming rate. This results in overpopulation, and the spread of diseases such as rabies. Rabies is contagious and deadly in many species of wild and domestic animals, and can also be transferred to humans. Many children under the age of 15 die from the virus every year. Educating the community and vaccinating the hounds are the best way to curb the spread of this horrible disease.
Apart from donating dog food, we wanted to get involved in a more hands-on manner. We then arranged for our Wildlife Conservation Experience (WCE) participants to assist on vaccination day which took place in August. Due to the nature of the disease, only the WCE participants who had been vaccinated against rabies were allowed to handle the dogs; and those that weren’t assisted with paper work, filling and handing out of certificates and flyers.
Not only did the dogs get vaccinated for rabies, but their overall health was also checked and they were dipped in order to help treat ticks and fleas. Owners who consented to their dogs being castrated were awarded with certificates and given dog food.
The day was successful and we were happy to be part of it and help support the rural community around us.