How ACTAsia is helping to combat rabies in animals, adults and children
Rabies is on the up in China. Whilst this lethal disease seems a far cry from our everyday lives – it is very much an issue for parts of China. Rabies is a rare but very serious infection of the brain and nervous system and is usually caught from the saliva from a bite or scratch of an infected animal, most often a dog. China is working hard towards their policy of ‘Zero Rabies by 2025’ and ACTAsia has been instrumental in setting the wheels in motion towards achieving this goal.
According to regional data on rabies in China, there has been an increase in the incidence of human rabies in recent years in particular in northern China, however southern China is now accounting for a significant proportion of the incidence in the last 20 years. Among the human rabies cases, a significant proportion are children who are being infected with the rabies virus. Children are particularly at risk as figures from WHO indicate that 40% of people bitten by suspect rabid animals are under 15 years old.
In recent years, China has adopted the slogan “2025 China Zero Rabies” and is actively organising various departments and institutions to participate in the goal of ‘zero rabies’. The only effective way to prevent rabies is through vaccination, and as dogs are an important part of rabies transmission, rabies vaccinations for dogs is essential in achieving the goal of ‘zero rabies’.
How ACTAsia is helping to raise rabies awareness
Since 2009, ACTAsia has been running companion animal welfare programmes in China; starting with animal birth control and rabies prevention and control, and providing high-quality training sessions to vets, relevant departments, companies, rescue organisations and public interest organisations in different regions. The trained vets then return to their own clinics or hospitals and teach their peers and fellow practitioners and clients about animal welfare, birth control and rabies.
Vets who are committed to improving animal welfare are assessed by ACTAsia and Vets for Compassion to become trainers in China for the Companion Animal Welfare Veterinary Programme.
ACTAsia’s Caring for Life curriculum – which has been delivered to children in ACTAsia’s pioneer schools since 2012 – has incorporated lessons on how to act safely around dogs and any warning signs to look out for including for rabies. These lessons are vital due to the high proportion of children affected every year. ACTAsia’s outreach also includes their Little Vet programme which brings the two programmes together.
Incredible vets leading change with ACTAsia’s help
Dr Zhou Weipeng has been inspired by ACTAsia’s teaching and is passionate about sharing the concept of animal welfare. He recently hosted an event in Fuzhou in the Fujian province, supported by ACTAsia, Fuzhou agricultural and rural bureau and Fujian Vocational College of Agriculture. Sponsorship for vaccination was also secured from Elanco (Sichuang) Ltd. Dr Zhou inspired many to join him on the anti-rabies campaign and students joined him for the event outside Dr Zhou’s hospital. Dogs – both owned and strays – and cats from Dagen community were vaccinated, while owners from nearby neighborhoods were educated about rabies. As part of the program, Dr Zhou educated owners about the responsibility of animal ownership and the importance of walking dogs on a leash.
Earlier this year, two trainers, Dr. Zeng Jihui and Dr. Zhang Hao from Xi’An also assisted the local government with vaccination in local communities. Dr. Zeng not only helped with the vaccination drive but he also used his training to speak to human health professionals about the responsibility of animal ownership and walking dogs on a leash. Dr Zhang’s hospital was pivotal in administering vaccines in the region with the local government purchasing vaccines from Pfizer and distributing them to different local animal hospitals. These vaccines served the local communities and nearby rural areas to provide free rabies vaccines for animals.
In total, 280 animals from 5 communities and 2 villages have been vaccinated over 8 different events similar to the ones held by Dr Zhou, Dr Jihui and Dr Zhang.
More vet trainers getting involved
In order to meet the target of ‘2025 China Zero Rabies’ many vets are now getting involved in not only vaccinating but also educating others with the help of ACTAsia’s Train the Trainer programs and Vets for Compassion initiatives. Currently, there are 24 of these trainers in China who promote animal welfare. With additional support, ACTAsia hope to train more vets who can help tackle this deadly disease.
Pet ownership vs Yulin Dog Meat Festival
The rise in companion animals – notably dogs – and the drive amongst local professionals to vaccinate and educate owners, demonstrates a rising compassion and a huge change in attitude towards dogs. This change in sentiment contrasts radically with the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. This annual event is a controversial festival held in Yulin, Guangxi during the summer solstice in June. It is estimated that since 2009, almost 15,000 dogs have been consumed during ‘festivities.’ Some claim that eating dog meat is a Chinese tradition and Chinese practitioners of folk medicine believed that dog meat was the best solution against summer heat – although there is no physiological or medical evidence to support this. During the 10-day festival, dogs (and also cats) are exhibited in metal cages and wooden crate before they are skinned, cooked, and eaten by visitors to the event. Animal rights activists are extremely vocal in fighting these ‘celebrations’ in the hope of raising awareness about animal welfare during this ‘festival’.