Joint meeting discusses ways to advance rabies elimination in Africa

19 September 2018 | Geneva −− Representatives from 24 rabies-endemic African countries attended an important meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa to share the findings of a recent multi-country study conducted under the Gavi learning agenda on rabies.1

Held jointly with the 2nd international meeting of the Pan-African Rabies Control Network (PARACON), the meeting considered options for implementing WHO’s new recommendations on human rabies vaccination, the opportunities presented by available tools and the global progress of rabies elimination.

The meeting, like that held in Kathmandu, Nepal in May 2018 for Asian countries, included representatives of stakeholders from civil society, nongovernmental organizations, academia and pharmaceutical industries, to share lessons learnt in various operational settings and identify next steps for achieving reach rabies elimination at country level and in this region.

Rabies contributed to unite animal and human health into a functional platform across administrative levels” said Dr Abdallah Traoré from the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Mali. “The activities and results of the Gavi learning agenda on rabies strengthened our position – rabies is now discussed and decided at the Prime Minister’s office.

High on the agenda for implementation of country programmes was management of dog populations, which is perceived as being difficult to implement locally.

Countries were invited to participate in plenary sessions and took advantage of breakout sessions on improving surveillance, monitoring dog vaccination campaigns and accelerating uptake of new human rabies immunization options. Country participants were invited to use the Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) to assess their progress and prepare workplans for their national rabies programmes.

Discussions also focused on the new WHO position on rabies prevention, control and elimination which includes updated recommendations on cost-, dose- and time-sparing human rabies vaccination. WHO has a central role in capacity-building to allow this updated position to be translated to national standard operating procedures.

Elimination of dog-mediated human rabies is feasible with available tools and technical knowledge. Disease awareness, responsible dog ownership, mass dog vaccination, cross-sectoral collaboration, appropriate wound management and access to post-bite treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis) are crucial factors in rabies control and elimination.

1 A learning agenda is a set of activities that includes specifying research questions to guide evaluation projects in both the short and long term.