Editor’s Note: The Foundation for a Cure?
Simon R. Platt, BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology) & DECVN
University of Georgia
“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.”
— Sir David Attenborough
In September 2017, The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) gathered veterinarians from around the globe to attend a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, which included an educational bonanza with sessions dedicated to every aspect of our diverse profession. During the meeting, the 11th World Rabies Day was observed.
One of the WSAVA Foundation’s key projects is the African Small Companion Animal Network (AFSCAN) initiative, which is supporting the development of the veterinary profession across Africa and playing a key role in the fight against rabies on the continent, together with partners such as Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS) and Mission Rabies. Founded in 2013, Mission Rabies is a charity dedicated to eradicating rabies by 2030 through international vaccination programs. Four years after starting its work in India, this volunteer group is working in 5 different countries, trying to defeat the disease with a combination of vaccination programs, education, technology, research, and a lot of effort. A huge variety of placements are available, with options for volunteers ranging from qualified veterinarians and veterinary nurses to students to people with no prior veterinary experience. Traveling to one of the countries as a volunteer may not suit you for a number of reasons, but there are other ways to get involved.a
The globalization of veterinary medicine, including WSAVA’s involvement in the fight against rabies, raises awareness of what veterinarians are doing, and can do, to improve our world.
As a profession, most of us find personal fulfillment in giving back—for example, presenting solutions to international crises, such as rabies—even though many of us may not receive comparable financial compensation based on the skills and time that we provide. However, using our skills helps us appreciate the global impact that we can achieve and helps us realize that we are all individually important, regardless of what a certain day may bring or what a difficult owner may say.
As individuals, when we search for inspiration and fulfillment in this profession, we need look no further than the movement to eliminate rabies from this planet. Global freedom from the threat of dog-mediated rabies is feasible within our lifetime. With the tools, vaccine, and evidence available, veterinarians can be at the forefront of minimizing that threat. What more inspiration do we need than knowing we have the ability to eradicate nearly half of the worldwide human rabies fatalities among children? The financial burden of human treatment far outweighs the costs of mass dog vaccination, which serves to protect whole communities. Studies have shown that culling is an ineffective means of elimination and mass vaccination is most efficacious to reduce rabies incidence. As an example, the Bangladesh canine rabies elimination program focuses on mass dog vaccination to reduce the incidence of human deaths. Since 2011, dog vaccination programs in Bangladesh have resulted in a 50% decrease in human rabies fatalities.1
Let’s aim to make this profession work for us rather than letting it control us. Getting involved in global initiatives to eradicate rabies at any level is using our profession to help the world become a safer place to live in while helping us achieve a sense of personal fulfillment.
- Wallace RM, Undurraga EA, Blanton JD, et al. Elimination of dog-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030: needs assessment and alternatives for progress based on dog vaccination. Front Vet Sci 2017;4:9.
aFor further information, visit missionrabies.com.