Rabies is a deadly disease that affects both humans and animals. It is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system, and it can be spread through bites or scratches from infected animals. If left untreated, rabies can be fatal.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rabies remains a scourge for many countries, with 59,000 people dying each year, mainly in the world's poorest and most vulnerable communities, with Africa and Asia accounting for more than 95% of these fatal cases and about 40% of these victims being children under the age of 15.
In recent years, there has been a push to eliminate rabies in Burundi. This is due to the high number of deaths caused by the disease each year. Thanks to mass vaccination campaigns and other preventative efforts, the country has made great strides towards this goal. However, there is still more work to be done.
Steps Towards Rabies Elimination in Burundi
Rabies primarily affects dogs in Burundi. In fact, over 90% of human rabies cases in the country are believed to be caused by dog bites. To combat this problem, Burundi has launched several mass vaccination campaigns targeting dogs.
In Burundi, current estimates indicate that 550 people die from this disease each year. Rabies is described as endemic in Burundi and there are many cases of bites by rabid dogs that are reported by news outlets. The most recent and most dramatic case occurred in March 2021 in the capital of Kirundo Province where a dog was shot after biting 14 people in one day.
The main risk factors for human rabies that have been identified in Burundi are population movements, overcrowding in different urban and peri-urban centres as well as poor access to health services.
The WHO recommends the elimination of canine rabies through mass vaccinations of up to 70% of dogs in an area and the management of the canine population.
ABMVAC (the Burundian Association of Veterinarians in charge of Pets), a member of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), is committed to contributing to the achievement of the goal of the Global Alliance for the Control and Eradication of Rabies (GARC) by 2030 whose motto is "zero rabies deaths by 2030".
To achieve this, ABMVAC has invested in two main principles in the eradication of rabies in the world as recommended by the GARC through awareness and vaccination against canine rabies.
On World Rabies Day, celebrated on September 28, ABMVAC conducted a campaign to raise awareness and vaccinate dogs against rabies in parts of Bujumbura, Kirundo and Gitega. Through support from the AFAS Foundation and Action for Protection of Animals Africa (APAA), the activities were carried out successively from the 22nd to the 28th of September 2022 where over 500 dogs were vaccinated. Other stakeholders that made the event a success include World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), Mission Rabies, Vet Clinics Burundi, ALCHEM and UNI PHARMA.
Rabies elimination in Burundi is an important step in protecting the population from this deadly disease. Burundi has successfully vaccinated over 60% of the population and is on track to eliminate rabies by 2030. This is a significant achievement for a country that was once considered to be at high risk for rabies.
With continued support from the community, government, and other stakeholders, this goal is achievable. Eliminating rabies will reduce the burden of disease on the population and save countless lives.