The Tanzanian government and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN-FAO) have launched a vaccination campaign to control rabies, a zoonotic disease that kills an estimated 1 500 people across the country annually.

Close-up of a dog's face during late-stage "dumb" paralytic rabies/CDC
Close-up of a dog’s face during late-stage “dumb” paralytic rabies/CDC

The vaccination roll-out follows reports of recurrent outbreaks of rabies among dogs and humans in the Moshi area of Kilimanjaro local government area.

To support the programme, 33 700 doses of rabies vaccines have been delivered by the UN-FAO and partners to the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.

Speaking at the launch, Tanzanian Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Martin Ruheta said rabies remains a fatal disease, causing death in 99% of the infected cases.

“Rabies is spread to humans through close contacts with infectious materials such as licking of open wounds by dogs, bites and scratches by infected animals. Once the symptoms develop, the chances of survival are minimal and rabies can be fatal,” Dr Ruheta said.

Deputy Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Abdallah Hamis Ulega called on all Tanzanians to ensure that their animals are vaccinated to avoid the loss of humans and animals.

“It is by far cheaper and economical to invest in disease prevention by vaccination than to treat infected humans. The cost of treating a rabies patient is estimated at more than Sh 70 000 Tanzanian (shillings), whereas vaccinating a single dog costs less than Sh14 000,” he said.

The UN-FAO is supporting the programme through the training of government health staff and equipping laboratories for early detection and rapid responses to rabies and other high impact zoonotic diseases.