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Intervet - working to combat rabies in the Serengeti

CALLING ALL dog owners! Would you be prepared to trek across several miles of barren land and open bush to get your dog vaccinated? Having the ability to pop into a local veterinary practice to get your pet vaccinated is certainly a luxury compared to the restraints of pet healthcare in the Serengeti. Here, the reliance on vaccination for both human and animal health is exceptionally high and ever present!

Helping to control the incidence of animal and human rabies in north-western Tanzania is a key focus for animal health company Intervet UK this year and, as such, the company will be signing up veterinary practices and dog owners alike to support the ‘Afya Serengeti’ project.

The ‘Afya Serengeti’ project, run by epidemiologist Dr Sarah Cleaveland from the Centre of Tropical Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, aims to bring widespread canine vaccination to this famous nature reserve in a bid to eradicate the rabies threat for humans and animals alike.

The company will donate one dose of its Nobivac Rabies vaccine to the project for every dose that is used by veterinary practices across the country.

‘The concept behind the ‘Afya Serengeti’ project is simple. For every dose of Nobivac Rabies that is used in practice here, an equivalent dose will be shipped out to the Serengeti’, explains Jac Bergman, product manager at Intervet UK. ‘It’s important to realise that the plight of rabies in third-world countries is much more severe than is generally recognised. Every year in Africa up to 25,000 people die from this disease - most of them children. It is disturbing to note that only 100-200 cases are officially recorded.

‘Rabies has also been a major factor in the decline of highly-endangered wildlife species such as the African wild dog population in the Serengeti, and with the domestic dog populations around the park growing so rapidly, the threat of disease transmission from dogs to humans continues to increase.’

The good news is that controlling rabies is entirely possible, In the Serengeti, as throughout much of the developing world, dogs are the major source of infection and vaccination can effectively control the disease, not only in dogs but also in humans, livestock and wildlife. Rabies is a totally preventable disease; the vaccines and tools are available, therefore there is little excuse for not doing more to control it.

‘We’ve certainly been very humbled by the sight of a Masai morani and child embarking on an epic journey, travelling several miles carrying their pet dog to the nearest clinic to get it vaccinated,’ adds Jac Bergman. ‘This is a true reflection of the importance of the human-animal bond in this country and one which we wholeheartedly admire and support.’