Despite being preventable by a vaccine, rabies — a viral zoonotic disease — is responsible for claiming at least one person’s life every half an hour in India.
Dogs are the source of most human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99 percent of all rabies transmissions to humans.
Over the years, Goa has taken several measures to control the fatal disease and has become the first rabies-controlled state in the country.
This is thanks to a decade-old campaign started by an international non-profit called Mission Rabies in collaboration with the state government.
Focusing on mass dog vaccination, community education about rabies, and enhanced rabies surveillance, Goa has curbed rabies-related cases from 100 to one in the past five years.
Veterinarian Dr Gowri Yale associated with the campaign says, “We do not have rabies in Goa anymore. We are only getting cases from border areas of Maharashtra.”
“Goa is estimated to have 1.5 lakh dogs. We have been able to vaccinate 70 percent of dogs every year. This has helped prevent the rabies transmission in the dogs,” she says.
A team of 50 vaccinators and dog catchers divide areas into smaller regions to vaccinate dogs. For instance, Goa has 12 talukas, so each month is dedicated to vaccinating a taluka.
The non-profit claims to vaccinate around one lakh dogs annually, of which 60 percent are stray dogs. It administers doses of Nobivac Rabies that provide immunity for at least a year.
After its success to control rabies in the state, Mission Rabies hopes to get an oral rabies vaccine to boost vaccination coverage in other areas like forests.