The rabies virus is frightening because of the swiftness and effectiveness with which it kills. Once evident in the victim, the disease progresses quickly and results in the same inevitable conclusion-- death. With very few exceptions in a few highly-developed countries, rabies is invariably fatal.
In the United States, rabies is not a pressing concern. On average, the virus only kills about two individuals per year. Because post-exposure treatment is readily available, pet-vaccination programs are firmly established, and the public is well-informed, Americans are highly unlikely to contract rabies in their lifetime.
In some countries of the world, the disease is even less of a concern.
Rabies has been completely eradicated in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It has been virtually eradicated in the British Isles, Scandanavia, and most island nations around the world. In Switzerland, scientists innoculated the last wild source of the virus (foxes) using vaccine-laden chicken heads. In terms of disease control, things seem to be progressing well.
Unfortunately, rabies still kills about 55,000 people annually. About 95% of these deaths occur in Asia and Africa. In the past six months alone, there have been at least two human mortalities from our corner of Mozambique. One was a teenage girl who died from rabies in Tete City in March. The other was the cousin of a teacher at our school, who died last week in Mwanza. In the seven years between 2004 and 2011, 287 Mozambicans died from the disease.
Because 97% of cases are caused by dog bites, Mozambique has placed a lot of emphasis on disease control in domestic dog populations. Luckily, there is a dog vaccination program in place in Zobue. All dogs over six months of age are eligible, and vaccinations are free. Innoculation is highly encouraged. Last Thursday, Dan and I waited with Bwino, Piro, and about thirty other dogs to receive rabies vaccinations from the Department of Agriculture. We waited for more than three hours, but our venture was ultimately successful.
In theory, a vaccination rate of 60% should be enough to control an outbreak of the disease. But with a turn-over rate of 25% in a town with thousands of dogs, achieving such numbers is no easy task. Thankfully, there are some-- like the cooler-toting Mama with her sterile rubber gloves-- who work hard to realize their vision of a healthier Mozambique.
|A boy with his dog on a homemade leash. |
Dogs like this one, from rural areas, are more likely to contract the disease.
|A boy carries his dog to get vaccinated against rabies|
|A man shows off his puppy on vaccination day|
|A homemade leash|
|A proud boy and his puppy|
|Bwino waits with Dan for his yearly rabies vaccine|
|A crowd of people wait for their dogs to receive a yearly vaccination|
|Piro gets his shot|