Tunis, Tunisia

Rabies : Regional Workshop on Epidemiological Surveillance and Canine Vaccination

As part of the OIE twinning project between the rabies and wildlife laboratory of ANSES Nancy (France) and the rabies laboratory of the Institut Pasteur of Tunis, three workshops were planned for the launch of the project and for a discussion on the state of canine vaccination and rabies surveillance in African countries (mainly Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa) (Activities 3.1, 7.1 and 7.2 of the project). With the context of the Covid19 pandemic, it was decided to hold an online meeting relating these various aspects. The meeting brought together 55 participants from more than 15 countries over a period of 1.5 days, on February 16 and 17, 2021, and was held in French and in English.

The objectives of this webinar were to promote the collaboration of actors involved in the control of canine rabies in the region in order to collectively contribute to the elimination of canine rabies, by harmonizing dog vaccination strategies between countries and by creating a network of laboratories working together to share detection tools and new developments for disease surveillance. It was also a question of informing the African countries of this project and of the possibility of participating in an inter-laboratory test which will be organized in this context. OIE, WHO, PAHO and GARC personalities as well as international experts actively participated in the workshop by giving presentations, including experts from the OIE rabies reference laboratory of South Africa and from the FAO rabies reference laboratory from Italy. Representatives of several countries in the region (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia) presented the epidemiological data of rabies surveillance, control methods, in particular elements on mass rabies vaccination of dogs, identified constraints and perspectives. During this webinar, a number of subjects relating more particularly to the control and surveillance of canine rabies were discussed: disease surveillance, most often insufficient in time and space; mass vaccination of dogs suggesting vaccination coverage rates below the required 70% rate; knowledge of the structure and densities of dog populations which is essential to better conduct and evaluate vaccination campaigns; virus detection tools and proficiency testing organization for rabies diagnosis.

Recommendations

  • Surveillance Rabies surveillance is essential and forms the basis for data collection, which allows decisionmakers to know the true situation of the disease in the country and to respond appropriately for controlling it. Surveillance is the basis of any control program. Even in the absence of sophisticated laboratory tools, databases useful for monitoring control actions, however basic they may be, are important (registration of animal rabies cases, census of the canine population, census of suspected rabies cases, number of people contaminated, number of people treated, number of vaccinated animals, etc.). These tools for recording data should be shared.
  • Stray dog management Culling of dogs without owners as the sole measure of rabies control should be avoided (except in the case of rabies outbreaks management); it has not been recommended for several years by all the competent international bodies. In some small, highly targeted areas, culling can accompany control or management measures, but not on a large scale because it is ineffective. It is also counterproductive for effective rabies control because, as it does not respect animal welfare, it generates reluctance among the population to have their dogs vaccinated. Initiatives of capture, sterilization and vaccination of ownerless dogs , often carried by NGOs and students, have been mentioned and should be followed to assess their effectiveness and to test their feasibility.
  • Mass parenteral vaccination of dogs All accessible dogs should be vaccinated against rabies (OIE and WHO recommendation). Civil society should be sensitized and trained in the responsibility of empowering their dog(s) in order to identify and vaccinate them. Mass vaccination strategies could be standardized in the region, and efforts should be made to order vaccines (bulk orders for cheaper prices).
  • Knowledge of the dog population Studies on the ecology of dog populations should be carried out in order to better understand the categorization of dogs and their estimated densities (https://www.oie.int/index.php?id=169&L=0&htmfile=chapitre_aw_stray_dog.htm). This work can be done in collaboration with the University or / and veterinary schools by students. Small-scale, inexpensive field projects should be encouraged (for example a canine population study coupled with vaccination and possibly an estimation of the seroprevalence). These projects should be carried out in a One Health approach (including, for example, monitoring of dog bites in the selected area and the number of post-exposure treatments), and include civil society, NGOs, students, etc.
  • Communication In order to facilitate communication between the different countries of the region, setting up an exchange platform could be developed for all actors and experts involved in the control and prevention of rabies.
  • Network of regional laboratories It is desirable to form a network centered on laboratories to create a regional dynamic, by exchanging procedures and reagents, by collaborating on certain protocols and strategies, by collecting opinions on recommended methods, by organising training, but also to unite voices for more relevant and effective advocacy with decision makers and the media. Exchanging experiences makes it possible to avoid redoing mistakes and trying successful methods.

Conclusion

 

It is therefore recommended to build a solid and sustainable cooperation network between the different countries of the region to plan a standardized and economically-adapted strategy for the fight against rabies.

Share this post