Mexico prevents rabies by vaccinating

April 5 2016

The International Fund for Animal Welfare and our local partner, Coco´s Animal Welfare, participated in the annual municipal rabies campaign in Playa del Carmen for the fourth year in a row.

I remember that as a child, I used to watch TV spots regarding how to avoid gastrointestinal diseases with proper hand washing, how to boil water before drinking it, how to wash and disinfect fruits and vegetables before eating them and how we should vaccinate dogs and cats every year against rabies.

When I was studying for my veterinary degree, I was able to go to a vaccination campaign in one of the largest “counties” of Mexico City.

I had had hardly any experience in vaccinating animals until then. It was a fantastic learning experience for me in how to safely handle animals and how to vaccinate gently and efficiently.

Nurses, military, veterinarians and veterinary students participate in these door-to-door rabies campaigns.

As such, it was One Health in action, long before “One Health” became a catch word for global zoonotic disease control.

I don’t remember the exact number of dogs that we vaccinated in that campaign, but there were many. It is still done this way in most parts of the city every year.

A veterinarian friend told me she recalls knocking on a door to find more than 10 families living there. They all had pets, so dozens were vaccinated from that one home.

The Mexican government has never stopped vaccinating dogs against rabies. It repeats these campaigns every year, systematically in every town and city. Sustained vaccination is the key to successful rabies control, and we take it very seriously.

A single child lost to rabies is unacceptable in this day and age. 

Globally, Mexico has one of the best rabies prevention programs in the world. I have assisted in international conferences with rabies experts, and Mexico is held up as an exemplary case study for the successful control of rabies through sustained vaccination of dogs.

We have almost no rabies cases involving dogs at all in Mexico.

IFAW and Coco’s staffed a vaccination station in the Playa del Carmen campaign.

In just 6 days, we vaccinated a total of 1,329 dogs and cats.

Together, the seven stations in Playa del Carmen reached nearly 7,000 animals. We use high quality vaccines and high standards of safety and hygiene for both dogs and people. All vaccine and vaccination supplies are provided by our government.

Owners know that this is very important for the health of their companion animals. It is also a legal requirement for everyone who owns a dog or a cat.

Through public mandates, public education and volunteers like IFAW and Coco’s, the Mexican government is able to vaccinate millions of dogs and cats in the single annual campaign week.

Private veterinarians also vaccinate the pets of clients throughout the year. These dog and cat owners demonstrate their understanding and valuation of rabies vaccination by paying the private practitioner’s fee.

Recently, there has been an outbreak of canine rabies in Bali. IFAW and other international organizations are working hard to help the Balinese government address the problem in a humane and sustainable manner. In effect, we are trying to encourage the government to adopt the same system that Mexico has been practicing for decades.

Sadly, the government continues to kill dogs – owned, vaccinated, healthy dogs as well as neglected street and beach dogs.

We have proven scientifically time and again that culling does not control rabies. In fact, besides being cruel and traumatizing to people – particularly to children – culling dogs destabilizes the dog population and destroys all hope that the vaccinated dog numbers can serve as a “barrier” to the disease as it has done here in Mexico.

Misguided practices in disease control result in suffering and death that can be completely avoided.

Please join your voice with ours to let the Balinese government know that we need to work together and vaccinate dogs, not kill them.

-- Erika Flores, IFAW Veterinarian, Advisor and Technical Coordinator

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