On World Vet Day (30th April 2011), WSPA celebrates the life-saving work of vets in Bali who, over the last year, have helped the island achieve a marked decrease in rabies through mass vaccination of dogs.
Every year, rabies kills more than 55,000 people across the world – the vast majority are children who suffer untreated bites from infected dogs. The human health implications of rabies remain so grave that the World Veterinary Association has chosen to highlight the disease as its chosen theme for 2011.
Dr Elly Hiby, Scientific Advisor at WSPA, said, “Veterinary science, animal welfare and human health are all closely interlinked. As World Vet Day focuses attention on rabies as one of the most deadly zoonoses, the vets in Bali send out a powerful message through their success: the mass vaccination of dogs is the most humane and effective form of rabies control and saves the greatest number of lives – both human and animal.”
Bali’s Successful Model for Humane Rabies Control
On the Indonesian island of Bali, a rabies outbreak had threatened to spiral out of control, killing more than 130 people. Attempts to bring the outbreak under control had largely failed, relying on the inhumane culling of the island’s dogs – regarded as an ineffective and cruel measure by the World Health Organization and WSPA.
In 2010, WSPA – together with the Bali Provincial Authorities and its partner the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) – introduced an island-wide vaccination campaign, designed around internationally proven scientific protocols to eradicate the disease.
Bali’s new rabies control campaign enjoys mass support locally, with top regency officials and village leaders facilitating the programme. Teams, including up to 400 local vets and trained animal handlers, have vaccinated more than 210,000 dogs in 4,126 Balinese villages over the last year, reaching more than 70% of the estimated total dog population – the critical immunity threshold preventing the re-emergence of the disease.
Local BAWA vet Dr. Putu Ernawati, who has inoculated about 50,000 animals, said," I have a two-year-old daughter and I want to help eradicate rabies so that Bali is safe for her, my family and the rest of the people on this island. I love my job – especially working with the local community.”
The Power of Education
Vets from BAWA play an additional, equally vital role: educating local children on appropriate care for their animals, protecting themselves from dog bites and the immediate medical care they should seek if they do get bitten.
Dr. Agung Arnawa, who works with BAWA’s free education program, said: "The children are very receptive to our BAWA teachers. They listen carefully to information and love to get involved in interactive segments where they can answer questions. Teaching this younger generation makes me very proud, especially because we also teach students about animal welfare and how to care for their pets.”
As a direct result of Bali’s vaccination and education campaign, statistics show a 48% decrease in the number of human rabies cases and a 70% decrease in the number of cases of rabies in dogs on the island, when comparing the period between 1st December 2010 and 30th March 2011 against the same period in 2010.