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a handy collection of useful information

General Questions

Why aren't you vaccinating elsewhere/will you come and vaccinate in my country?

We are always keen to hear from active animal welfare groups around the world who are interested in taking up the work of Mission Rabies in their own country. If you have the manpower and logistics to run a vaccine drive and are working in a rabies-endemic country, then we would be happy to hear from you to see whether Mission Rabies could support you in running mass vaccination drives. Contact enquiries@missionrabies.com for more information.

Do you sterilise dogs at the same time as vaccination?

This depends on the project, location and resources available. Humane population control is a very important part of an over arching strategy to control rabies, but it is a separate project to single-mindedly eliminating the disease.

If we aren’t neutering as we vaccinate, we always work synergistically with local NGO’s and through our sister charity, Worldwide Veterinary Service, to support on-going local veterinary infrastructure with ABC training and neutering campaigns.

As a priority to eliminate rabies, we need to rapidly achieve herd immunity in the dog population, by vaccinating to at least 70% coverage, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, so our immediate focus is often initially on mass vaccinations to hit this 70% coverage, and then we support the humane population control programme (which is a much slower process!).

Why are you vaccinating dogs and not people?

Over 99% of cases of human rabies are caused by an infected dog bite. Protecting dogs is the quickest and fastest way to protect people and tackles the disease at the source. The cost of vaccinating dogs is also significantly cheaper than the cost of vaccinating people too, so there is an economic benefit to preventing the disease in dogs as a primary initiative.

With regards public awareness, we always seek to deliver our comprehensive education material to local school children through our education teams. Dog vaccination together with educating people living alongside dogs is the best way to prevent rabies in both people and dogs. In our 6 month Goa initial project, we made over 70,000 school children rabies aware!

Do the nets traumatise or hurt the dogs?

It is the kindest and best way to catch a street dog. Some of the dogs are stressed by it, but never hurt and we use skilled dog catchers, trained in net catching which is non-painful and which most dogs don't seem too distressed by.

To minimise the stress, we always aim to carry out the entire process of catch-vaccinate-mark-release within 60 seconds. We try to identify friendly dogs that will not require net catching and use treats and minimal restraint where possible, but it is fair to say, the safety of the vaccination team is our priority, so we do not take risks if we are uncertain of the temperament of the dog - in many cases it is safer for all concerned to restrain the dog quickly and painlessly in the net.

Do the yellow t-shirts frighten the dogs?

Dogs see a very limited range of colours and in much less intensity than humans do. Many dogs willingly approach the team for food rewards and are then held to be vaccinated. For those that don't approach of their free will, the nets are the most humane and safest way to catch the dogs and the whole experience lasts usually less than a minute, yet the rabies vaccine administered will save their life and the lives of many people.

The uniform is most useful for other team members to identify their colleagues and for local communities to associate our colors with the work we are doing.

How will your teams keep track of those vaccinated for a hopeful repeat next year?

We don’t have to. The plan is always to repeat the 70% vaccination coverage of any given area, every year for three years.

We use Nobivac Rabies, a world-leading vaccine that also provides immunity for at least three years, however, in a rabies-endemic country like India, and where the dog population turnover may be high and we have no way of knowing which dogs have been vaccinated once the marker paint has worn off, annual vaccinations have to be enforced as much as possible to provide adequate protective 'herd immunity' in a population.

If we can maintain at least 70% vaccination coverage every year, then we can eliminate rabies from the dog population. There is no harm to the dogs by vaccinating them annually. Vaccinating annually also has the effect of raising awareness and diligence amongst animal owners about the importance of regular vaccination.

How many vaccinations are needed for immunity?

One single vaccine should provide immunity for at least three years.

At what age can dogs be vaccinated?

We vaccinate at any age.

We take our advice on age of vaccination from the Canine Rabies Blueprint:

“Although it is often assumed that pups should be vaccinated only after 3 months of age, it is important that dogs of all ages, including young pups, are vaccinated during a vaccination campaign. If pups are not included in campaigns, it is likely that the overall population vaccination coverage will not be high enough to prevent rabies in the interval between campaigns. There is good evidence from African campaigns that pups younger than 3 months mount a solid (protective) immune response to rabies vaccine and that commercial inactivated vaccines are entirely safe.” (Source: Canine Rabies Blueprint)

What about injured dogs?

Any injured or seriously ill animals are treated. That said, the project is focused on rabies control and it's not possible for our mobile street teams to carry supplies of preventative meds, so we are not deworming, for example.

About the vaccine

The vaccine we use is Nobivac Rabies, produced by MSD (Merck) which is ideal for our campaign as it is very stable under field conditions (including exposure to higher temperatures). It is licensed and shown to be safe in pregnant and lactating bitches and pups from 4 weeks of age, provides at least 3 years' immunity and has active case challenge data supporting its efficacy. It can also be given under the skin (subcutaneously) or directly into the muscle (intramuscularly). (MSD Vaccine Fact Sheet)

Do you just vaccinate free-roaming or un-owned dogs?

We will target both owned and un-owned dogs, since a large proportion of dog bites occur from owned dogs and to achieve the 70% vaccination coverage required to prevent the spread of rabies, we need to target all dogs, not just un-owned dogs. As well as catching free-roaming dogs in nets, we also go door-to-door vaccinating confined, owned dogs.

Wouldn't it be easier/cheaper just to kill the dogs?

Killing dogs has been scientifically proven to have no effect on rabies transmission or overall population, since new dogs quickly move into the area where killing has taken place to take advantage of the increased food resources and territory. This mixing of new dogs may even increase the risk of rabies due to fighting over territory and mates. By vaccinating at least 70% of a stable population of dogs in the local area, they act as a barrier to disease transmission and stop rabies in its tracks, this protecting the people in that area from the disease. A healthy, vaccinated street dog population is the best protection for people from rabies.

Volunteer Questions

How can I be part of this exciting project?

Mission Rabies could not exist without the workforce and dedication of Volunteers donating their time and skills to help eliminating rabies. To become a part of this amazing Volunteer community is fairly easy: Just go to missionrabies.com/volunteer, pick a project that suits you and apply through the link provided on that project’s page. After you sent in your application via the website, one of our Volunteer Coordinators will contact you with further details. In case the application form doesn’t work, you can also contact us directly via enquiries@missionrabies.com.

Do you also offer volunteer opportunities in other countries than India?

Yes. Make sure to regularly check out our website, as well as Facebook and Twitter pages to be ready when our amazing new projects open up.

My favourite project is already booked out. Is there a waiting list for current or future projects?

Even though we are in constant need for volunteers there might be times when we can’t take any more volunteers on one specific project. If you want to be among the first to be informed when a new opportunity opens up, please contact us directly at enquiries@missionrabies.com for your name put on a waiting list.

What is the latest point in time I can book a trip before my departure?

It certainly depends on the project you are interested, so make sure to check out the projects page missionrabies.com/volunteer and read through the available information there. Some of the projects are booked out shortly after the announcement, so make sure to check out the homepage regularly.

We usually advise all volunteers to book their trips no later than 6 weeks before the intended date of departure. This gives you enough time to arrange your rabies vaccination (the first series of shots takes about 1 month) and visa for the trip. Please keep in mind that in arranging your flights the earlier – the cheaper, so it is better to allow reasonable time for this.

Why do I have to pay to be a Volunteer?

We at Mission Rabies honour the dedication and generous offer of your workforce to reach the ultimate goal – the elimination of rabies. In order to make this happen, we want to be able to spend as much of our funding as possible into supplies and logistics, like life-saving vaccines and trucks to transport the teams. Therefore we need to charge you a small fee that covers your cost of living, transportation and support throughout your time at the project site. Of course we also try to turn your stay into a real experience and will organize activities during your days off that will enable you to see and learn more about the place you stay. Last but not least you will also support the Mission as a whole through your volunteer fee, to enable us to save more lives through vaccinating even more dogs.

I’m not a veterinarian (or student) and want to be part of Mission Rabies! Is that even possible?

YES, absolutely! Despite needing veterinarians for our various projects, non-veterinarians and students are always more than welcome to join the team! We have various positions to fill, from Dog Painters to Epicollectors, everyone has an important position to fill and Mission Rabies couldn’t work without them. Check out our Volunteer information on the projects page or have a look at the Volunteer Info Packs in the Volunteer section of our Resources page. Please be aware that some projects and positions might be limited to people with a professional veterinary background.

As a veterinary student, can I learn how to spay and neuter while volunteering for Mission Rabies?

Mission Rabies strives to eliminate rabies in large areas in a short amount of time. As you can read in our FAQ General section, we therefore focus more on mass vaccination drives without dog population control. During projects that entail population management, sterilization will be for qualified and experiences veterinarians only, as we are aiming for high numbers while still maintaining our high animal welfare and surgery standards. To ensure the latter we would not be able to reach the numbers we are aiming for and therefore refrain from educating veterinary students in surgical techniques. You are more than welcome to watch the surgeries and ask questions to the surgeons should you have some free time within your team.

As a veterinary student, does volunteering with Mission Rabies count as an official internship (EMS)?

Whether you volunteering with Mission Rabies counts towards your EMS (in UK) or will be recognized as an official intern- or externship mainly depends on your university. Several of our former student volunteers from the UK have claimed EMS credit in the past. Please discuss this with your tutor and university administration first. In the UK, you need to obtain an EMS form from your university which we will gladly complete for you.

I tried to fill in the form but I couldn’t complete and send it or don’t have all the documents yet. Can I still apply?

Sometimes our form has problems with international passport numbers. In case you can’t send the application via our online form at all, please get in touch with our Volunteer Coordinators via enquiries@missionrabies.com and we will aid you in the application process.

Some documents, such as your rabies vaccination, visa and insurance can be sent to us as you get them but please make sure to send as much of the documentation required as you can in order to secure your place. Additionally, all documents will be required in a timely manner prior to your departure as they are required for us to allow you to participate in the project.

What vaccinations beside the rabies vaccination are required?

The vaccinations you need may vary from country to country where a Mission Rabies project is based, so please make sure to contact your physician or the nearest travel clinic to learn more about the vaccinations you need.

Also, please make sure to acquire documentation for your vaccinations. Especially for the rabies vaccine we need a proof that you are vaccinated. Where you have received the vaccination without documentation as proof, please contact the respective physician to obtain a document stating that you are properly vaccinated.

What about safety at Mission Rabies?

Rabies is a dangerous disease and for a lot of our volunteers it may be the first time to see a rabid animal, and we take this very seriously and responsibly. Mission Rabies staff try their best to keep all the risks as low as possible through a thorough risk analysis before we even set up a project site and training of both permanent staff and volunteers.

We send out key documentation before you travel and volunteers will have a local Volunteer Coordinator who delivers briefing on arrival, ensures their safety and well-being on the ground. We expect all volunteers to be acting within this guidance and take personal responsibility for health and safety in line with this advice. More information about the exact locations and safety advice can be found in the Volunteer Guides that are distributed to all volunteers before the trip.

Some background rabies information sites that we have used to plan our campaign:

http://caninerabiesblueprint.org/

http://www.who.int/rabies/animal/ExcerptTRS931.pdf

http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/12/09-021209/en/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2244675/

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/

http://rabies.org.in/rabies/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/whosurvey.pdf

http://foxrabiesblueprint.org/IMG/pdf/pdf_111_sudarshan_et_al_2007.pdf