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Bulgarians combat rabies in Southeast Asia


© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

An international team, including Bulgarian experts, of FOUR PAWS animal welfare charity has completed one of the largest campaigns to eradicate the treacherous rabies disease in Asia. Within two months, nearly 60,000 dogs and cats were vaccinated in the South Asian country of Myanmar. The campaign is the beginning of a long-term project of the organization, which aims to vaccinate 1 million animals in the next three years.


Rabies is one of the most dangerous diseases that affect both humans and animals. It is transmitted mainly by biting from an infected predator and affects fatally the central nervous system. Death is inevitable unless the victim is vaccinated. Although in Europe and North America rabies has not taken any human victims for a quite a long time, the death toll worldwide is around 60,000 people per year, with 95% of the cases in Asia and Africa.


“Rabies is 100% deadly but also 100% preventable” says Dr. Marina Ivanova, campaign coordinator and director of FOUR PAWS Bulgaria. “The only way to limit the disease is by mass vaccination of the animals which are at highest risk of being infected, as well as raising awareness among the local population about the immediate measures that have to be taken if bitten by a predator."

Cats and dogs are among the animals that are at highest risk of being infected. Therefore, a maximun number of them needs to be vaccinated. Over the past two months, 58,994 animals have been vaccinated by the FOUR PAWS team and its partners in two of Myanmar's provinces - the capital city Nay Piy Taw and the tourist area around the ancient city of Bagan.


Myanmar is one of the most affected countries by rabies. The Asian country has a population of nearly 55 million people and according to the the Local Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department the number of dogs is about 4 million, with a similar number of cats as well. It is believed that every year about 1,000 Myanmarese die as a result of a bite by a rabid animal.

The main cause for the dire situation in Myanmar is the lack of systematic campaigns for vaccination of domestic animals that are potential carriers of the virus. Another reason is the insufficient information of the population about the measures that need to be taken to prevent the disease. The previous practice of mass culling of domestic, free-roaming and stray dogs and cats has not given any results, and therefore in recent years the government has sought support from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), as well as non-governmental organizations.


In the large-scale campaign to eradicate rabies in Myanmar, FOUR PAWS cooperates with the Blue Cross of India, one of the largest Asian animal welfare charities, as well as with the local humanitarian organization Mingalar Myanmar. Over 40 experts from Myanmar, India, Jordan, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria took part in the campaign. The campaign is in support of the global initiative of the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health to bring down by 2030 human victims to rabies to zero.

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