Rabies control efforts are accelerating in India, a country where a third of all human rabies cases occur.
The next major initiative in the country will be launched in February 2024 when Mission Rabies aims to deliver a mass canine vaccination drive in the most densely populated city in India, Mumbai.
Dr Luke Gamble, the British vet who founded the charity, is calling on people to join a team of international volunteers to help save lives and change history.
The one-week campaign will be delivered by the Government of Mumbai and UK veterinary charity, Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), as part of its Mission Rabies project.
The vaccination teams will work throughout the city and neighbouring communities vaccinating stray dogs.
Globally, rabies still claims the lives of approximately 59,000 people each year, with a staggering
20,000 of these fatalities occurring in India.
These deaths are the result of around 4.5 million human rabies exposures annually and children have a much greater risk of dying.
According to the World Health Organization, up to 60 percent of rabies deaths in the country are children under the age of fifteen. This sadly means that more children die from rabies in India than any other nation.
Infected dog bites are the main cause of rabies in people and studies have proven that mass canine
vaccination programmes are the most effective way to control the disease.
At its global projects, Mission Rabies aims to vaccinate 70 percent of the dog population which is the coverage needed to eliminate the disease in dogs and prevent human deaths.
To deliver canine vaccinations on a large scale, the charity uses its own bespoke data collection “rabies app” where vaccination figures and information about each dog are entered.
“This data feeds into the management of vaccination campaigns in real time.
Dr Luke Gamble, CEO and founder of Worldwide Veterinary Service, launched Mission Rabies in 2013:
“In a world where rabies still tragically claims tens of thousands of lives every year, mostly in children,
we have the power to prevent this.
“Nearly all human rabies cases stem from infected dog bites, a stark reality that drives our relentless pursuit to combat this disease at its very root.
“Our groundbreaking work in Goa has not only shown that it’s possible to eliminate canine rabies but also to safeguard human lives from this entirely preventable yet devastating disease.
“The Mumbai initiative marks a pivotal moment in our journey, an ambitious step towards a rabies-free future in India.”
He continues: “It’s more than just a five-day vaccination drive; it’s a call to action for anyone
passionate about making a tangible difference.
“By joining this campaign, volunteers aren’t just part of a mission; they’re part of a historic movement, shaping a safer, rabies-free world for both humans and dogs.”
Mission Rabies first launched in India when 60,000 dogs were vaccinated in Goa during a four-week
In 2021, after eight years of work by WVS and the Government of Goa, it became the first Indian state to be declared a “Rabies Controlled Area”.
The breakthrough set a precedent for other states to follow, with Goa acting as a global beacon of progress in rabies control.
Rabies was declared a notifiable disease by Maharashtra State Health Department in 2022, and a partnership between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Mission Rabies was formed to work towards making Mumbai a rabies-free city.
During September and October 2023, a pilot project was delivered by BMC in the city with Mission Rabies providing technical support and strategic planning. Over 14,000 animals were vaccinated against rabies during this campaign.
The 2024 drive will mark the beginning of an annual mass dog vaccination project in Mumbai as part of a broader national plan in India to eliminate human rabies deaths by 2030.
Mission Rabies is now recruiting volunteers to work within these teams.
Readers can find out more and apply online.