Mission Rabies, a global public health charity, is celebrating educating 5 million children worldwide since the charity was founded in 2013. This milestone is a result of the charity’s work delivering rabies prevention lessons to children in schools and local community groups in rabies hotspots.
The milestone was passed while the charity was delivering an urgent rabies prevention programme to control an outbreak of rabies and save children’s lives in Ghana.
Rabies is a devastating zoonotic disease. It kills around 59,000 people a year, the majority of whom are children under 15 years old. Rabies has the highest fatality rate of any infectious disease and once symptoms show it is already too late for treatment. The deadly disease still persists in impoverished communities and rural regions across Africa and Asia.
Mission Rabies runs dog mass vaccination campaigns and community education programmes in the world’s worst hotspots for the disease, such as India and Malawi, in partnership with the local governments and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The educational sessions have increased awareness of rabies while empowering children, their teachers, and their families with the knowledge needed to protect themselves from dog bites, prevent rabies and save lives. Washing the wound correctly can reduce the chance of transmission by a third, while receiving vaccination immediately after an exposure can save a child’s life.
Dr Murugan Appupillai, education director, India, explains why educating children is so important: “100 children die of rabies every day. Many children in rabies endemic countries care for a dog in their household or play alongside street dogs on the way to and from school.
“Death is inevitable once symptoms develop, which is why receiving post-exposure treatment is so vital. It really is a lack of awareness that kills people. If the risks are widely understood and appropriate dog bite treatment known, then rabies is 100 percent preventable.”
Mission Rabies’ education team deliver the rabies prevention lessons to children from age five up to sixteen, focussing particularly on primary schools. Their lessons cover the dangers of rabies, how to be safe around dogs, and the steps to take if bitten by a potentially rabid dog. They also encourage members of the public to bring their dogs for vaccination.
About 99 percent of rabies cases are caused by dog bites, so mass canine vaccination can rid an area of rabies.
CEO and Founder of Mission Rabies, Dr Luke Gamble, said: “It is amazing to reach this milestone. Education, alongside vaccination and surveillance, is one of the cornerstones in eliminating canine-transmitted rabies.
“Explaining what rabies is, how to avoid being bitten by a dog, and what to do if you are bitten by a dog, is fundamental in protecting communities. In places where PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is scarce and where treatment options are limited, then our advice can mean the difference between life and death.
“I’m so proud of the Mission Rabies education teams; they are inspirational to have reached 5 million children and they have made a real difference in protecting children who are at risk of this terrible disease.”
For every school the Mission Rabies team visit, information is recorded via a ‘rabies app’ to give real-time project management and mapped records of their reach. The charity’s local teams keep in touch with schools and communities, to receive feedback and to provide ongoing support.
To find out more about Mission Rabies, visit their website.