Those of you who have been following the updates on Facebook and Twitter will know that our first week has been pretty exciting. An average of 2,600 doses of canine rabies vaccine have been administered every day, with over 18,000 dogs treated by day seven. It is likely that we will be very close to half of the 50,000 target by the end of today!
Weâre delighted to have received such a positive response from the public, which has been vital to the success of the campaign. Mass awareness was created in the weeks preceding the launch through the distribution of posters and leaflets, and these efforts have proved worthwhile as residents have readily brought their dogs for vaccination. In many checkpoints the programme has had such support that we have been able to double our expected target. Dr Appu Pillai Murugan, senior veterinary co-ordinator, explains the effect this has had in Madurai: "we had initially planned to vaccinate 5,000 dogs, but due to the overwhelming response from the public we have revised this target. We may be able to treat as many as 8,000 dogs if the same trend continues".
Every dog that is vaccinated is marked with paint or a collar and is recorded in a smartphone app called Epicollect (when you see pictures of Mission Rabies volunteers tapping away on their phones, this is what they are doing). The map below shows just one area of Goa that has been targeted, with each dot representing a single vaccination. There are many, many more maps like this!
With results like this coming in itâs clear that we have an extraordinary group of people making Mission Rabies a success; people like Nagaraj, one of our skilled catchers, who nets over 100 dogs a day in Madurai and has been known to get two in one swoop! And you can see our Nagpur catching team in action in this video recorded by a Delhi radio station (this is the most humane method of dog catching as it doesnât hurt and causes minimal distress).
This is by no means an easy job. The days are long and hard; it is usual to walk over four miles in a morning and the work itself is physically demanding, taking place on busy streets and in high temperatures. The advice from our first group of overseas volunteers to the second is to remember to pack comfortable footwear, very high factor sun cream, a hat and blister plasters! But as one member of the team says, it is a small sacrifice: âwe are having the most amazing time here. The work is hard but great and the Indian teams are fantastic, thank you so much for making this happen!â
Sadly our first rabid dog was captured by Nagaraj on Friday. The case was diagnosed at the Department of Biotechnology at Chennai College. A member of the film crew working with the team in Madurai at the time said: "reality hits when you realise how serious this disease is and how easily it could be contracted". Another of our volunteers came across a little boy in Erode who was on his way to hospital for his post-dog bite prophylaxis. Encountering situations like this just days into the campaign provides a powerful reminder of how important this work is.
Our second official photographer, Naomi Kenton, has joined us today so weâre looking forward to having some more beautiful images to share with you. To do them justice we now also have a shiny new gallery to display them in - head over to www.missionrabies.com/gallery and see what you think.
Next week the campaign moves north to Bhubhaneswar, Kolkata, Ranchi, Guwahati, Bikaner and Tirupati, so the teams there are busy making the final preparations. In a few daysâ time the rest of our brilliant overseas volunteers will be making their way to India to help us replicate the fantastic results weâve had in the south, so we wish them a safe journey.