On Wednesday, more than 150 pets were vaccinated in central Vientiane as part of a World Rabies Day drive to protect communities and raise awareness of this deadly disease – as well as ways to prevent infection.
At an event in Chao Fa Ngum Park, officials from the Ministries of Health, and Agriculture and Forestry vaccinated people’s pets free of charge, while health officials, WHO, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization highlighted the risks of the disease – and ways to prevent it.
Laos is one of 150 countries or territories where the rabies virus is found. Unfortunately, the disease is always fatal once symptoms appear. Found mainly in animals, anyone can catch rabies via a bite or scratch from an infected animal, with dogs the main source of transmission to people.
“Anyone can catch rabies, but tragically, it is people in rural areas and children who are most at risk – almost half of the people bitten by suspected animals are children,” said WHO Team Leader Matt Shortus.
“But, there are steps we can take to prevent and protect ourselves and our communities. We can save lives.”
Globally, dog bites contribute to 99% of all rabies cases in people. However, important steps were highlighted to protect people from potential rabies infection:
- Be careful around dogs, particularly those you don’t know. If you see an injured dog, or one that is behaving strangely, leave it alone.
- If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog, wash and disinfect the wound immediately with soap and water, and go immediately to the nearest health centre or hospital to get treatment.
- If advised by a healthcare professional, get vaccinated against rabies. Being assessed by a healthcare professional at a district or major hospital is essential, and could save your life.
- Get your dog vaccinated against rabies; this will protect your pet, family, and community.
Speaking at the event, Vilayphone Vorraphim, Director of Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said: “We are deeply concerned for people’s health, so, we organize this event each year to brief the public, family members, and people in the community – to help understand rabies prevention and management.”
World Rabies Day promotes awareness of the disease and ways to protect people and communities. It specifically emphasizes the importance of vaccinating dogs to prevent infection and providing life-saving post-bite care for those who have been infected.
Nasar Hayat, FAO Representative, reinforced the involvement of pet owners is critical to reduce human rabies cases.
“This involvement, through the vaccination alone of our pets, can ultimately contribute to the “Zero Death by 2030” objective of the World Rabies Day,” he said.
“Participation at today’s event, learning more on the risks associated with rabies, and the means that exist to eradicate rabies, as well as promoting these measures among families, peers and neighbours, is essential. These actions are simple, affordable, effective and easy to carry out by pet owners.”
The activity is part of broader support by WHO to address rabies in Laos, including providing technical and financial support to Laos to develop and implement the rabies prevention and control strategic plan from 2020-2024, providing rabies protection lessons in schools in high-risk provinces, and providing advice on use of the rabies vaccine.