PULLMAN, Wash --- Researchers at Washington State University are working to put an end to rabies throughout the world.
Rabies is a preventable disease, but it still kills over 60,000 people a year worldwide. This is one of the reasons the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health has been creating and administering vaccines at WSU. They want to eliminate rabies from dog bites within the next 15 years.
The school has given out more than a million vaccinations since they started in 2003. They are also working to develop a new approach in rabies elimination.
“Once a child or human shows signs of rabies, it’s too late, so prevention is key,” said Senior Director of Global Health at WSU, Guy Palmer.
This is part of a campaign that was started in 2003, it administers vaccinations in East Africa to stop the spread of rabies to humans, especially children.
“If children are bit and they don’t get help immediately, the disease is 100 percent fatal,” said Palmer.
Palmer takes several trips a year to deliver vaccines. He is the one who brings the medication to Kenya and Tanzania, but veterinarians here at home are helping make that happen.
“The Spokane community has especially jumped into this and say this is what we can do…every dog that gets vaccinated, they donate a dollar to our program,” said Palmer.
Surprisingly, most of the dogs needing vaccinations in Africa are not wild, 90% of them belong to families.
“The enjoyment is seeing children bring their dogs, but the real reward is knowing they are not at risk,” said Palmer.
Rabies is a real threat in the U.S. and abroad, and life-saving help is often out of reach.
“They might have to spend one or two months’ salary of their family in order to treat the disease,” said Palmer.
One of the keys to eliminating the problem across the globe is a new type of vaccine created at WSU.
“The heat stable vaccination is so important because now it can be left with the community, who can do the vaccination when they see a new batch of puppies…it can be kept easily for three months in village conditions and still be as effective if it just came out of the refrigerator,” said Palmer.
WSU is hoping to administer more than 120,000 vaccinations in East Africa by the end of 2017.