The health impact of rabies in Haiti and recent developments on the path toward elimination, 2010–2015

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 17
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Haiti, a Caribbean country of 10.5 million people, is estimated to have the highest burden of caninemediated human rabies deaths in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the highest rates of human rabies deaths in the world. Haiti is also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has numerous economic and health priorities that compete for rabies-control resources. As a result, primary rabies-control actions, including canine vaccination programs, surveillance systems for human and animal rabies, and appropriate postbite treatment, have not been fully implemented at a national scale. After the 2010 earthquake that further hindered the development of public health program infrastructure and services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked with the Ministry of Public Health and Population and key health development partners (including the Pan-American Health Organization) to provide technical expertise and funding for general disease surveillance systems, laboratory capacity, and selected disease control programs; including rabies. In 2011, a cross-ministerial rabies consortium was convened with participation from multiple international rabies experts to develop a strategy for successful rabies control in Haiti. The consortium focused on seven pillars: 1) enhancement of laboratory diagnostic capacity, 2) development of comprehensive animal surveillance system, 3) development of comprehensive human rabies surveillance system, 4) educational outreach, 5) sustainable human rabies biologics supply, 6) achievement of sustained canine vaccination rates of ³ 70%, and 7) finalization of a national rabies control strategy. From 2010 until 2015, Haiti has seen improvements in the program infrastructure for canine rabies control. The greatest improvements were seen in the area of animal rabies surveillance, in support of which an internationally recognized rabies laboratory was developed thereby leading to an 18-fold increase in the detection of rabid animals. Canine rabies vaccination practices also improved, from a 2010 level of approximately 12% to a 2015 dog population coverage level estimated to be 45%. Rabies vaccine coverage is still below the goal of 70%, however, the positive trend is encouraging. Gaps exist in the capacity to conduct national surveillance for human rabies cases and access to human rabies vaccine is lacking in many parts of the country. However, control has improved over the past 5 years as a result of the efforts of Haiti’s health and agriculture sectors with assistance from multiple international organizations. Haiti is well situated to eliminate canine-mediated human rabies deaths in the near future and should serve as a great example to many developing countries struggling with similar barriers and limitations.