As part of the global effort to eliminate human rabies by 2030, Bhutan is implementing various strategies to prevent control, and eliminate dog-mediate rabies in the country through the one health approach.
To further the initiative, a joint statement by Health Minister, Dasho Dechen wangmo and Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Yeshey Penjor said that currently rabies remains endemic in the southern region. Sporadic cases are also reported from the eastern Dzongkhag like Trashi Yangtse and Trashigang.
In adding, the joint statements also stated that the persistence of rabies in southern parts of the country and its related intervention has substantial public health and financial impacts.
Head, Disease Prevention and Control Unit (DPCU), National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH) in Department of Livestock (DoL), Serbithang, Dr Sangay Rinchen, said that rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease caused by rabies virus. It is maintained in animals, especially dogs but can be transmitted to people and other animals. It is a disease that has both public health and economic implications. “It has no treatment once the clinical manifestation of the disease occurs.”
The financial impacts are associated with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) cost in humans (increasingly every year), dog vaccination and sterilization program costs, livestock losses due to rabies, and epidemiological surveillance and disease control costs, added Dr Sangay Rinchen.
Since 2006, 17 people have been reported to have succumbed to rabies infection.
To eliminate the rabies by 2030, Dr Sangay Rinchen said that since the problems associated with rabies is complex requiring multi-sectorial collaboration. The Ministry of Health and the MoAF are working closely to realize the goal of eliminating dog-mediated rabies by 2030.
In the animal health sector, he said that the emphasis has been placed on enhancing existing rabies control programs like mass dog vaccination, dog population management and awareness education while in the public health sector, human resource development and making rabies vaccine and immunoglobulins readily available in all the health centers across the country have been prioritized. Furthermore, The MoAF led by the DoL is currently initiating Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Program in an accelerated mode in joint partnership with De-suung.
Meanwhile, he said that there are lots of technical details about rabies. However, to the general public, the core messages that the department have been disseminating which includes rabies is almost a 100 percent fatal disease but can be prevented 100 percent by seeking health advice and intervention, it is transmitted by animal bites and scratches; therefore, prevent animal bites, particularly dogs, if bitten by animals, wash the bite wounds with soap and water and visit hospital immediately and be a responsible pet owner. Vaccinate your pet dogs regularly as advised by animal health officials.
“If one gets rabies, it is 99.9 percent sure that the infected individual will die. There is no treatment for rabies,” added Dr Sangay Rinchen.
Although very deadly, he further said that rabies can be easily prevented. Rabies vaccines are safe and very effective which can be given even after getting bitten by a confirmed rabid animal. “It is our collective responsibility to eliminated dog-mediated rabies by 2030. Let us all be a part to achieving this goal by following the public health advice on rabies.”