Mission Rabies has been awarded a very generous grant by our major sponsors, Dogs Trust, to carry out a six month mass sterilisation and rabies vaccination drive across the entire state of Goa! Goa was one of our 14 checkpoints that took part in the September 2013 mega-vaccination drive, and we successfully vaccinated over 5,000 dogs there in the course of the month. We decided to build on this success by proposing a state-wide campaign to sterilise and rabies vaccinate 70% of the dog population within six months - estimated to be around 28,000 dogs.
This is no mean feat and will require a huge amount of co-ordination to achieve. As such, we've recruited some of the best vets and animal handlers from across India to come together in this - we've got staff from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala and Goa itself, joining forces with local NGOs, including International Animal Rescue, People for Animals Goa, Welfare for Animals in Goa, Goa Animal Welfare Trust, South Goa Welfare Trust for Animals, Panjim Animal Welfare Society and Goa SPCA, amongst others. On top of this, international volunteers will lend their weight to the teams, to bring a truly global presence to drive the project on!
The plan is to ensure we've achieved a state-wide vaccination coverage sufficient to halt the spread of rabies - as recommended by the World Health Organization, vaccinating 70% of the dog population produces 'herd-immunity' which prevents rabies spreading between dogs or from dogs to people - whilst also reducing the reproductive rate of the population, so that individual sterilised dogs live longer, healthier lives, without the constant physiological demands of reproduction. This also means fewer new, potentially unwanted, puppies being born each year to dilute the vaccination coverage, and a healthier, stable adult vaccinated population. Healthy, vaccinated, sterilised dogs are our best allies in the fight against rabies!
Following our initial pilot phase, where we established the teams and protocols, we launched officially on 1st April 2014 and now have three surgical 'hubs' - based in Bicholim and Assagoa in North Goa, and Margao in South Goa - where we aim to sterilise up to 200 dogs a day. At the end of the first month we'd already sterilised over 3000 dogs!
Surveillance of rabies cases is a vital part of the project to show that we are making an impact on the areas we're working, so we've established and publicised a rabies 'hotline' for members of the public to report suspected rabid dogs to our team so that we can send a rapid response unit to assess the dog and, if suspected as rabid, safely capture it and test for rabies with special field testing kits that give us an immediate result, allowing feedback to the community and those potentially exposed. To date, we've confirmed 8 cases of canine rabies and followed up with five local people - four of which were children - that had been bitten, to ensure they receive the full post-exposure vaccine that will prevent them developing the symptoms of rabies and save their lives.
The work is set to continue until the end of September, after which, we'll continue the surveillance work and annual mass vaccine drives to keep the disease at bay. The temperature and humidity are high in Goa, but so are the spirits of our teams on the ground as they work tirelessly to make the entire state rabies-free and save the lives of people and dogs! You can keep up to date with the action as it happens by following our Facebook page