Johannesburg Diary – CLAW Project Works to Contain Rabies Outbreak
Right now we are in full swing organizing teams of all our staff and a few additional helpers to vaccinate as many of the regions our clinic as possible, in as short a time as possible. Rabies is, luckily, very preventable, but only if you vaccinate before the disease hits. In a place like South Africa, where there are areas with widespread rabies, and not much in the way of border controls, a largely un-vaccinated pet population is like a ticking time bomb. Now that we know rabies is in the area, we have to be quick to stop it from spreading out of control and killing more animals and people.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)‘s Kate Nattrass Atema, Companion Animal team leader on a rabies outbreak near Johannesburg, South Africa, which has already taken the life of a young child. Images and stories were submitted from IFAW supported Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW) team lead, Cora Bailey, CLAW vet/nurse, Jennifer Gerner, vet/nurse Gabriel Jaravasa and vet/nurseKatie Suddard.
OCTOBER 21, 2010
Rabies is, luckily, very preventable, but only if you vaccinate before the disease hits. In a place like South Africa, where there are areas with widespread rabies, and not much in the way of border controls, a largely unvaccinated pet population is like a ticking time bomb. Now that we know rabies is in the area, we have to be quick to stop it from spreading out of control and killing more animals and people.
The problem is that peoples’ homes (mostly home-made shacks of scrap metal and wood) are densely packed and many people aren’t educated about things like rabies and how to prevent it. This means the disease can spread quickly, creating deadly consequences in an area before anyone on the outside ever hears about it. We have discovered a few cases ourselves, through word of mouth and talking with people in the communities. The government doesn’t really get involved at this level, so they miss a lot of critical areas.
Our vaccination efforts are creating a protective ring around the regions our clinic serves. Three teams comprised of of vets and outreach staff are going into the townships we think are most at risk, working to provide a vaccination “barrier” against the spread of the disease and keeping the communities safe.
When our teams go into an area, they go door to door, providing information on rabies and vaccinating every cat and dog we can find. We have to be careful not to spread alarm or panic that could lead to people abandoning or killing dogs,. Rumors and misinformation spread faster than any disease here, so we have to protect animals against both the disease and any backlash that comes from peoples’ fear. We are also visiting schools and encouraging children to bring their dogs to get vaccinated.
OCTOBER 24, 2010
The teams visited two very large schools in the Braamfischer area, with two teams alone, administering over 400 vaccinations in just one day. The teams will be going back to Braamfischer tomorrow to set up mobiles at another two schools for those owners who were not able to attend Friday’s mobile clinics.
Even though our team is fully mobilized, we’ve temporarily brought two additional vet nurses on board to help us reach as many animals as possible, as quickly as possible. With their help, we’ve already been able to vaccinate over 2,000 dogs and cats. It makes for long, hot days, but it’s so rewarding to leave an area and really feel you’ve kept it safe from something terrible.
OCTOBER 27, 2010
Three vaccination teams continue working full out on the rabies vaccination campaign. A large supply of vaccines are being donated from vet clinics on the outskirts of the townships, where most animals are already vaccinated and clinics don’t require as much vaccine as they’ve received. Some vaccines are coming from the Department of Agriculture (DoA), but not enough. We are hoping to receive an additional supply within the next day or two.
To date, 3,096 rabies vaccinations have been administered to dogs & cats in an area south of Johannesburg. We are hoping we’re fast enough to stop any new cases from developing. None so far have come to light, thank goodness.
For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s work around the world, visit http://ifaw.org.