Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can infect all mammals, including humans. It kills 2,000 people annually in Kenya – nearly six people every day (Kenya National Zoonotic Disease Unit). Many of these victims live in rural areas that have low access to post-exposure rabies treatment. Since domestic dogs are the main reservoir for the virus, children under the age of 15 years are particularly at risk as they come in contact with dogs more frequently than adults.
Rabies not only threatens human wellbeing, it can be a crisis for wildlife conservation. It can easily be spread from domestic dogs to endangered wildlife like African wild dogs, cheetahs, and lions, decimating their already fragile populations.
The majority of people in Laikipia County are pastoral, which means they own many domestic dogs to help them defend and herd their livestock. This county also has some of the highest densities of wildlife in Kenya and all of Africa. Combined, these factors mean that there is a high level of mixing between people, domestic dogs, and wildlife, creating an environment where rabies outbreaks are frequent and devastating.
The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign
The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign (LRVC) is an ambitious program aimed at eradicating rabies in Laikipia County and serving as a model for rabies eradication in rural communities throughout Kenya and beyond. To fully eliminate rabies from an area, research shows that 70% of the domestic dog population must be vaccinated for three consecutive years (WHO, 2005). Our aim for 2019 is to vaccinate 25,000 dogs, which will help us complete our first year at the 70% vaccination level.
LRVC began in 2015 as a volunteer-run mobile clinic administering free rabies vaccinations to domestic dogs throughout Laikipia in communities who would otherwise not be able to access the lifesaving medicine. The campaign brings together diverse partners from the county and national governments, private conservancies, universities, and local and international NGOs to reach more than 200 communities over the course of two months. Since its start, about 30,000 rabies vaccinations have been administered to dogs and cats, and an estimated 300,000 people have benefited from the vaccination of these animals.
As it has grown, the project has also developed a crucial research component to examine the demographics of domestic dogs in Laikipia, the potential for disease transmission between domestic dogs and wildlife, and the most effective methods to bring vaccinations to people here and their animals.
Additionally, LRVC does the following:
· Invests in health education and technical training for community members
· Works to raise awareness within the communities of Laikipia about rabies prevention and treatment and best practices for caring for their dogs.
· Provides valuable opportunities for college students and young veterinarian students and professionals to get hands-on experience with disease prevention, community health projects, and data collection, which benefit them in their future careers.
Read our reports:
2018 Review Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign 2018 Report (27 downloads)
2017 Review Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign 2017 Report (20 downloads)