I’m helping the HALI Project put together an event for World Rabies Day on September 28th in a small village called Makifu in Tanzania. Makifu is close to the Wildlife Management Areas and Ruaha Naitonal Park. The park has wild dogs, Makifu and surrounding villages have domestic dogs. Wild dogs have been spotted near the villages drinking from the Tungamalenga River, which means that mixing between the canine populations is possible, with potentially harmful repercussions and consequences (i.e. wild dog death).
For more on the African Wild Dog, please visit Joshua Ginsberg and Mary Cole’s article:
“Wild at heart: The African wild dog, long persucuted as vermin, is down to a few thousand…”
African wild dog (Source: http://www.becci.com/images/Misc/WildDog1.jpg)
In the interest of conservation, the HALI Project would like to expand activities into an intervention of sorts to vaccinate domestic dog populations in the villages surrounding the park. WIld dog packs are known to disappear thanks to rabies (see Wild at Heart above), and it is hoped that vaccinating domestic dogs will reduce a transmission vehicle for infection, as well as protecting villagers and dog owners, and essentially all wildlife. Rabies can infect any warm blooded creature.
So, we’re doing a video night on the 28th with a presentation. Kind of a rabies and education program to pilot the effectiveness of an education intervention on rabies awareness and vaccination interest. We’ll have some evaluation forms for feedback, and hope to use the evaluations as leverage at the district level to promote vaccination programs in the area. Currently, vaccination programs have been suspended due to a lack of interest stemming from a lack of commitment from the district level. The vets don’t show up at the appointed time, and nobody likes to wait around for a no-show.
The Dark Side (Video sourced from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dScdr8Dly4g)
I was going to write up a piece on the Rabies virus, but then came across a wonderfully written 2008 editorial by Olivia Judson of the New York Times. In “A Coffin for Rabies,” she digs into the reach and extent of the virus in the developing world, including a case study in Tanzania.
A Coffin for Rabies
Here’s a lovely excerpt from the piece on how the Rabies virus attacks the human body:
The virus that causes the disease is spread by the saliva of infected animals. On arriving in a new victim, it travels through the nerves to the spinal cord and up into the brain, where it multiplies rapidly before spreading to other parts of the body, including the salivary glands. The time between being bitten and developing disease can vary from a few days to months or, occasionally, years. Depending on which part of the brain the virus ravages, the disease can take different forms, but the most common is known as furious rabies. This will kill you within a week of symptoms beginning to appear.
Often the first symptom is itching around the site of the bite. Sometimes, it’s an itching so intense that people will tear open their own skin as they scratch. The victim becomes afraid of water, to the point where drinking becomes impossible, no matter how great the thirst: the sight of a glass of water will induce spasms of terror so severe that the victim will hurl the glass away and may retch so violently as to tear the lining of the throat. The vocal cords become paralyzed, distorting the voice. Saliva may become thick and heavy. And then comes the madness.
“At the peak of excitement, the patient’s whole nervous system seems to be aroused. He is in a state of extreme agitation and has frightening hallucinations. His face is a mask of terror. He shouts incomprehensibly at the top of his distorted voice. His body is racked with tremors or spasms. He may struggle frantically and powerfully to free himself from constraints and try to escape from the room.”
Episodes of madness continue until the victim falls into a coma; this is followed by paralysis and death. Sometimes the madness includes ferocious, biting, attacks on anyone nearby. Sometimes it includes a sexual frenzy and attempted rape.
Sounds great. I’ll keep the blog updated on the progress of the Rabies event, and should have pictures and video from World Rabies Day in early October.