16 May 2013 -- Rabies is a widespread, neglected and under reported zoonosis with an almost 100% case fatality rate in humans and animals if post-bite vaccination is not delivered soon after exposure. Every year, an estimated 55,000-70,000 people die from rabies with 95 percent of them from Asia and Africa. The disease causes a significant social and economic burden in many countries worldwide. In Viet Nam, the main reservoir of rabies is the dog, responsible for more than 90% of fatal rabies cases in humans. In recent years, rabies has become a pressing problem mainly in North mountainous provinces of Viet Nam. Between 2006-2010, approximately 85 people died from rabies annually and an estimated 400,000 people received post-bite treatment and vaccination preventing further human deaths.
In 2012, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) supported the Department of Animal Health (DAH) within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD ) to conduct a Knowledge-Attitude-Practice survey with dog owners and a dog ecology study to gain a better understanding of interaction among dogs, livestock and humans. The study results indicate that improved animal and human health inter-sectoral collaboration needed to control rabies, and priority areas for resource allocation were identified in support of dog rabies control.
On 13-14 May 2013 in Hanoi, the DAH and FAO convened national rabies workshop to present findings from this study, to discuss broader rabies prevention and control strategies, and to gain insights from neighboring ASEAN countries (Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia) on lessons learned from their rabies management programs. Through a series of group discussion and problem-based learning scenarios, three key recommendations were suggested to improve inter-sector rabies control strategies:
1) Strong political commitment and an effective inter-sector collaboration mechanism needs to be established;
2) A significant effort needs to be placed on vaccinating dogs, with emphasis on Districts and Provinces with the highest number of rabies cases; and
3) An advocacy and outreach communication plan to raise awareness about rabies needs to be developed, specifically targeting dog owners and the general public.
The workshop brought together nearly 60 senior representatives and technical experts of Viet Nam’s ministries, e.g. MARD and Ministry of Health , General Department of Preventive Medicine (GDPM) related national research institutes such as National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE); international and regional partners including World Health Organisation (WHO) , OIE, FAO, and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and provincial representatives as well as other relevant stakeholders.
“To achieve an improved rabies prevention and control strategy, we must overcome policy and coordination challenges as well as addressing technical and communication issues. FAO strongly recommends an effective inter-sectoral coordination mechanism so additional stakeholders and sectors can be mobilised to work closely with the Public Health and Animal Health sectors” said Dr Scott Newman, FAO Senior Technical Coordinator.