DEADLY BITES FROM MAN'S BESTFRIEND
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical symptoms. Up to 99% of cases, domestic animals (dogs, cats and other mammals) are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals and are often spread to people through bites or scratches, usually via saliva1.
1 Rabies Fact Sheet,
What is the problem? Rabies situation and problems in Thailand
Since rabies is a crucial zoonotic viral disease in Thailand, the Thai Ministry of Public Health plans to eliminate rabies from the country by the year 2020. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health jointly urge all nations to get rid of rabies by 2020. In collaboration with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Institute for Urban Disease Control and Prevention has been most active and serves as the implementing arm of the rabies control program, while the Bureau of Risk Communication and Health Behavior Development concurrently serves as the national monitoring unit.
The public at large still lacks the proper knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to rabies risk, including appropriate doses of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) after being bitten/scratched by suspected infectious dogs or cats, or issues related to rabies vaccination for pets. These gaps in information reinforce the need for risk communication as a vital solution not just to inform the public about rabies, but also to contribute to more sustainable preventive measures. Rabies experts from various sectors claim that rabies continues to spread around Bangkok and many provinces in Thailand. They cite an influx of stray pets, a limited budget, lack of attention from the local administration, and social determinants, which make rabies prevention and control challenging. These factors demonstrate that law enforcement cannot tackle the issue single-handedly.
And here is what we are doing about it…
Risk communication is one of the strategies outlined in Thailand’s National Strategic Plan for Emerging Infectious Disease Preparedness, Prevention and Response 2013-2016. It is also one of the goals of the BMA towards rabies eradication by 2020. Identifying roles and responsibilities of a “rabies community task force” is important to local government agencies such as BMA.
We aim to:
1. Identify the roles and responsibilities of a “rabies community task force” important to local government agencies such as BMA.
2. Gather information and human resources required for pre-service and in-service training for Thai OH workforce capacity.
3. Identify partners and alliances.
4. Work with the community and media outlets.
A multidisciplinary team of experts from Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University, and Thammasat University has been established to develop a multi-disciplinary training curriculum on risk communication. The series of activities are supported by USAID’s One Health Workforce project through the Thailand One Health University Network. The training program aims to strengthen the community and raise public awareness on rabies infection to decrease rabies infections in animals and humans using risk communication as the core strategy. Case studies will be developed based on current situations in fresh markets, communities, schools, temples, and army residential areas within the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. The developed course will be offered as in-service and pre-service programs for workforce development.
Following the submission of the developed curriculum and materials to the experts from the Bureau of General Communicable Diseases and Ministry of Public Health for review, pilot training on rabies emergency response and risk communication will be conducted for 25 health workers and 25 non-health workers from the BMA and 25 health professionals from hospitals in Bangkok. Lastly, the course will be scaled-up by merger into existing degree programs at universities. A mobile application on rabies reports and advisories might also be produced for easy access to relevant and up-to-date information.