In a consolidated effort, multiple partners1have set up a comprehensive rabies course including an intensive 11-day program in Côte d’Ivoire, bringing together 25 animal and human public health professionals from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Chad, and Togo.
Course participants had already completed extensive online preparatory sessions, so this in-person program focused on turning that knowledge into action through hands-on practical experience.
Key areas covered included strategic planning, access to PEP (post exposure prophylaxis for bite victims), mass dog vaccination and laboratory work.
“This international rabies training aims to foster the emergence of collaborations between young professionals from different disciplines and sectors, and from diverse African countries. It is expected that these actors will contribute to the strengthening of the One Health approach in their respective countries to achieve the goal of zero human rabies cases by 2030.”
Dr Madi Savadogo, Training facilitator and Head of Rabies Free Burkina Faso
Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is administered to patients suspected of exposure to rabies virus and consists of thorough wound washing, passive immunization if indicated, and a series of vaccinations. Access to PEP is very limited in many countries, and it is also expensive.
The course encouraged participants to discuss the present challenges in providing rabies PEP as well as practical solutions to increase access to care and PEP for bite victims. In Côte d’Ivoire, rabies is a priority disease and vaccination as well as human rabies surveillance are coordinated by the Antirabies Center of the National Institute of Public Hygiene. Participants visited one of 30 rabies vaccination units that specialize in providing PEP for bite victims.
Dog vaccination is a key pillar of Zero by 30: the Global Strategic Plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. The course urged all participants to see dog vaccination as a matter of human public health as well as animal health, with hands-on experience in planning and implementing dog vaccination campaigns and dog population management. Participants gained practical knowledge of dog behaviour, safe dog handling, different vaccination techniques and ways in which vaccinated dogs can be identified.
Participants put theory into practice by taking part in a dog vaccination campaign led by local authorities in Bingerville. Dog owners were invited, via local radio announcements, social network messages and door-to-door communication, to bring their animals to local vaccination points.
Gbohounou Fabrice Gnali, a participant in the course, working in the veterinary public health sector, recalled that “the beginning of the campaign was timid, but after the word had spread many dog owners came on subsequent days to ask for a free vaccination against rabies.”
The dog owners were provided with a certificate of vaccination, and many were also interviewed about their knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to rabies.
In addition to this, participants helped to vaccinate free-roaming dogs across the locality. All vaccinated animals were marked with a ribbon collar.
“There are many dogs walking in the streets without being accompanied by their owners and we don’t know if they have been vaccinated or not. In rural areas, adults and children alike are not suspicious of dogs, whether they are vaccinated or not, and children tend to approach them; on the other hand, in urban areas, people are suspicious of dogs that do not belong to them.” Gbohounou Fabrice Gnali, DVM, Institut Pasteur de Côte d’Ivoire.
At the central veterinary laboratory of Bingerville, course participants were able to compare and practice different diagnostic procedures and discuss the importance of data collection including standardized case definitions, minimum indicators and the global sharing of data. In many rabies-endemic countries, laboratory testing of animals infected with rabies remains rare, but post-mortem investigations are important to improve rabies epidemiological data and strengthen detection and surveillance.
The course aimed to increase awareness and communication about rabies in Africa and emphasized the need for multidisciplinary approaches and intersectoral cooperation. Participants exchanged experiences from their respective countries and discussed the different problems and opportunities for rabies control in Africa, elaborating on strategic and practical solutions.
Elimination of dog-mediated human rabies is complex but achievable. It requires sustained efforts to improve disease awareness, community engagement, responsible dog ownership, mass dog vaccination, cross-sectoral collaboration, appropriate wound management, and access to post-bite treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis). All these topics were covered, in an attempt to empower countries to get closer to the globally-agreed goal of zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.
The course was conducted by Institut Pasteur and other key stakeholders.
Photo Credit: WHO/Katrin Bote
1. The course was organised by the Institut Pasteur de Côte d’Ivoire, the Institut National d’Hygiène Publique en Côte d’Ivoire, the Direction des services vétérinaires de Côte d’Ivoire and the Institut Pasteur in Paris, in collaboration with the Université des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies de Bamako, Mali, the Laboratoire Central Vétérinaire in Mali, the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI), Germany, the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, the HSeT foundation, Switzerland, the University of Glasgow, the Pasteur Network and Afrique One-ASPIRE, with the active participation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC).