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World Rabies Day: FOUR PAWS announces new plan to vaccinate one million dogs and cats against rabies in Myanmar

On World Rabies Day (28 September), international animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS announces that within three years it plans to vaccinate 1,000,000 dogs and cats against rabies in Myanmar to safe animals and humans alike from a painful death.

Millions of animals die worldwide from rabies every year, directly from the disease and through culling programs to reduce the risk of rabies to humans.

Around 1,000 people die as a result of infectious animal bites in Myanmar each year, According to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This project reinforces Myanmar's plan to eradicate rabies by 2030 by deploying humane methods.

FOUR PAWS and Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) plan to start a new era in the fight against rabies. Between 1st February 2019 and 31st December 2021 one million dogs and cats – most of them free roaming – will be vaccinated against the deadly disease.

FOUR PAWS will not only support with 500,000 vaccines, providing international experts and necessary equipment for catching, tagging and data collection, but will also be responsible for the implementation of the mass vaccination program. LBVD will provide the remainder of the needed vaccines and secure the human resources on a national level. A team of roughly 100 people is going to carry out the vaccinations in the Nay Py Taw Union Territory, Yangon Region, Mandalay Region, Bago Region and Rakhine State.

“Together with the people of Myanmar, we get a step closer to the dream of a rabies-free world – for the sake of humans and animals. It will be a tough and long journey, but it will be worthwhile,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of the project Dr Amir Khalil.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. Sadly, it is common in many countries affected by rabies for authorities to kill stray dogs and cats due to the fear of rabies and the lack of available information.

FOUR PAWS implements mass vaccination and education programs like the one in Myanmar to stop the unnecessary slaughter of stray animals and to save the lives of humans threatened by infectious bites.

Two successful pilot projects in 2018

Together with LBVD as well as local and international veterinarians, FOUR PAWS tested the water with two pilot projects in Myanmar in March and May 2018. The team vaccinated 59,058 animals in 516 villages and the main towns in the Townships of Lewe and Nyaung-U, both located in the Mandalay Region. FOUR PAWS flanked its efforts in the field with an additional education and awareness campaign in the region.

“Raising awareness for the disease and the proper treatment of animals is as crucial as the vaccinations themselves. Many people falsely believe that stray animals tend to be more aggressive during the hot season and therefore, need to be killed before it starts. We want stop rabies but also the unnecessary and brutal culling of these animals. That is why we keep the educational part of the campaign running,” says FOUR PAWS vet Dr Marina Ivanova, who is also leading the project in Myanmar.

Zero rabies deaths by 2030

Myanmar supports WHO's worldwide goal of stopping the transmission of rabies from dogs to humans from 2030 onwards. The starting situation, however, is not an easy one.

According to LBVD, of the estimated four million dogs in the country, 70% of them are assumed to be strays. In 2017, nearly 62,000 people were bitten by dogs; 40% of those bitten were children under the age of fifteen. About 1,000 of these bites turned deadly as a result of rabies infections – but there is hope.

“We are happy to strengthen our partnership with Myanmar because the dream of a world without rabies is a realistic and feasible one. With only one Euro we get one animal rabies-free which already helps us getting closer to the eradication of rabies deaths,” says FOUR PAWS president and founder Heli Dungler.