Rabies control in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

28 Jun 2018

PROBLEM : Urbanization, large dog populations and failed control efforts have contributed to continuing endemicity of dog-mediated rabies in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. APPROACH : From 2007 to 2014 we used a OneHealth approach to rabies prevention, involving both the human and animal health sectors. We implemented mass vaccination campaigns for dogs to control canine rabies, and strategies to improve rabies awareness and access to postexposure prophylaxis for people exposed to rabies. LOCAL SETTING : A rabies-endemic region, KwaZulu-Natal is one of the smallest and most populous South African provinces (estimated population 10 900 000). Canine rabies has persisted since its introduction in 1976, causing an average of 9.2 human rabies cases per annum in KwaZulu-Natal from 1976 to 2007, when the project started. RELEVANT CHANGES : Between 2007 and 2014, the numbers of dog vaccinations rose from 358 611 to 395 000 and human vaccines purchased increased form 100 046 to 156 996. Strategic dog vaccination successfully reduced rabies transmission within dog populations, reducing canine rabies cases from 473 in 2007 to 37 in 2014. Actions taken to reduce the incidence of canine rabies, increase public awareness of rabies and improve delivery of postexposure prophylaxis contributed to reaching zero human rabies cases in KwaZulu-Natal in 2014. LESSONS LEARNT : Starting small and scaling up enabled us to build strategies that fitted various local settings and to successfully apply a OneHealth approach. Important to the success of the project were employing competent, motivated staff, and providing resources, training and support for field workers.