Today’s show on All My Children Wear Fur Coats featured Rachel Clark with the Community Health Coalition.  Their mission is to eradicate rabies one vaccine at a time.  You can find more information at knockoutrabies.org.  Rachel and her husband John, a veterinarian live in Vero Beach, Florida but are passionate about rabies throughout the world, especially Malawi and Zambia.

In the United States we tend to think about rabies from the perspective of getting our pets vaccinated at regular intervals.  What we don’t think about is rabies from a world view.  Rachel says, “Every year around 60,000 people die from rabies.  Most of these deaths occur in children under the age of 15.”  By vaccinating dogs and eliminating rabies around the world, we are also saving the world’s children.

You don’t have to be bitten by a “rabid” dog to get rabies.  Dogs can be infected with rabies and you may not even know.  A playful puppy could be infected and accidentally nip you or lick a scratch on your arm or leg.  In AFrica, the majority of transmission is via canine bites or saliva transmission.

Rabies symptoms in humans can mimic other illnesses, including meningitis or the flu, so there isn’t always a proper diagnosis when someone gets sick.  Treatment for a person who has rabies is not the horror story we might remember from our childhood, but still requires four innoculations that can be very painful.  Only one person in the world is known to have survived rabies – death from rabies is unfortunately, a certainty.  The cost of treatment is not only painful, but expensive and getting access to the Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) may require travel to an urban area with quality medical care.  This type of treatment is not easily accessible for those who live in poor, rural areas.

In the developing world, people cannot afford basic care for themselves, not to mention getting vaccines for the dogs.  Over the last few years, Rachel and John have successfully vaccinated approximately 16,000 dogs.  If 70% of the dogs can be vaccinated, then rabies can be eliminated.  You can see pictures of the communities they have helped by visiting knockoutrabies.org.    Other organizations that can provide information include the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health  and Rabies Free Africa.  The Rabies Free Africa program hopes to eliminate rabies by the year 2030 through their Zero by 30 initiative.

Ask your veterinarian to enroll int he Rabies Free Africa program where a portion of each dollar you spend vaccinating your pets can go toward eliminating rabies around the world.  A gift of Ten Dollars ($10.00) will vaccinate a child’s dog from rabies and distemper, another major cause of mortality in young dogs.

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