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Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Rabies Vaccination Campaign
Rabies, a deadly viral infection, is a threat to human communities, domestic dogs and the survival of many important species, including the endangered African wild dog. In Africa, most human cases of rabies are transmitted from domestic dogs instead of wild animals such as bats or raccoons. Unfortunately, children are most commonly infected.
There is an effective vaccine to prevent rabies infection in dogs and other animals. Lincoln Park Zoo, in conjunction with scientists from Scotland’s University of Glasgow, Princeton University, the University of Minnesota and local stakeholders have teamed up to provide strategic vaccination clinics for domestic dogs. The dogs are also inoculated for distemper and parvovirus, two other viral infections that impact local wildlife.
Lincoln Park researchers Rachel Santymire (an endocrinologist), Felix Lankester (a wildlife veterinarian) and I were able to visit one of the vaccination clinics in action. There was a long line of villagers, including children with their dogs on leashes/collars fashioned from ropes.
The vaccination staff asks the owners questions about the age and health of their dogs, vaccinates the dogs and gives them vaccination cards to show their dogs have been vaccinated. Many villagers came with their dogs and vaccination cards from previous years. Dogs even showed up being carried by owners on the back of motorcycles. These animals are an important part of village life and are valued for their protection of homes and domestic animals.
Many dogs, while thin compared to Western standards, appeared quite healthy. However, some dogs had obvious signs of the skin disease “mange.” They were treated by the vaccination team with the medication ivermectin.
Lincoln Park Zoo-led vaccination clinics have dramatically reduced the number of human and dog deaths from rabies and simultaneously protected the vulnerable wildlife of the Serengeti region. It was rewarding to see them make a difference firsthand.
Lesanna Lahner, D.V.M., M.P.H., is a veterinary epidemiology fellow in Lincoln Park Zoo’s Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology.
Serengeti Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is leading the Serengeti Health Initiative, a collaborative effort to preserve the wildlife of this African ecosystem while benefiting local people. Our Serengeti field diaries feature updates as scientists conduct vaccination efforts, collaborate with Tanzanian partners and encounter the Serengeti’s famed wildlife.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction at the zoo and in the wild.
A graduate student in the department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Anna is studying how rabies vaccination campaigns of domestic dogs in villages around Serengeti National Park affect population dynamics.
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