Mass Dog Anti-Rabies Vaccination Drive in Samtse and Chhukha

The Regional Livestock Development Centre (RLDC), Tsimasham, Department of Livestock, MoAF and Dzongkhag Livestock sector, Samtse with supports from Dog Population Management (DPM) unit, National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH) Serbithang, Thimphu has successfully completed the mass anti-rabies vaccination program. A total of 3675 dogs and 984 cats were vaccinated in Samtse Throm areas and rabies high risk communities that shares porous border. The main objective of the program is to reduce the rabies incidences in animals by vaccination of stray & community free roaming dogs and pet animals.

RABIES is a contagious and fatal viral disease of dogs and other mammals, transmissible to human and animals through bites (exposure to rabid animals). Rabies is 100% preventable by vaccination in animals and people, yet it remains underreported or lately reported and neglected zoonosis, which is endemic in southern parts of the country.  Dogs are the main source of human rabies death, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmission to humans. Infection causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Engagement of multiple sectors and One Health (OH) collaboration including community education, awareness programmes, dog population control and vaccination campaigns are critical. Bhutan also leads the collective efforts “United against Rabies” to drive progress towards “Zero human deaths from dog mediated rabies by 2030”

 From July 2020 to February 2021, about more than fifteen (15) confirmed rabies outbreaks were reported from Samtse and Chhukha in canine, bovine and equine species. Most of these cases were reported from high risk villages,’ communities that shares a porous border with Indian states. The frequent trans-movement of free roaming stray dogs across border are main issues that often bites community free roaming dogs and other domestic species like bovine, caprine & equine. In southern belts, prevention of trans-movement of stray free roaming dogs across border is not feasible due to porous border and sporadic rabies incidences were continuously reported in stray free roaming dogs and other domestic animals, however control of community stray dog population and anti-rabies vaccination is crucial to prevent or reduce rabies incidences by proper induction of herd immunity.

Unfortunately a human rabies case was reported from Norbugang Gewog in October 2020 after four years gap. As per regional trans-boundary animal disease information data, Samtse Dzongkhag has recorded the major sporadic rabies cases from July 2020 to February 2021. The mass dog population management and vaccination program in Samtse was long awaiting program since June 2019. Dog bite and rabies incidences decline directly in line with decreasing of stray dog population and increase levels of dog vaccination coverage.

In last 15 working days excluding government holidays, team has vaccinated 4509 animals (3525 dogs and 984 cats) in Samtse from Tading to Tendruk, covering a longest border stretch in the country. Out of 3525 dogs, 2079 (914 female and1165 male) are stray (un-owned) dogs and 1446 (663 female and 783 male) are owned dogs. 83% (1871 dogs) are unsterilized stray dogs and 77% are unsterilized pet dogs, overall only 20% dogs are sterilized in Samtse. The data includes only the assigned vaccination areas, targeted in Throm areas and border high risk communities and data excludes the interior communities/Gewogs.

Similarly, the Regional Livestock Development Centre, Tsimasham, and Dzongkhag Livestock sector Chhukha will undertake the mass rabies vaccination in Phuentsholing Thromde and high risk border communities from 1st March 2021 following strict COVID-19 protocols. The mass vaccination drive will target to achieve 90% vaccination coverage in lower Chhukha Dzongkhag. All the border areas are manned by security officials like Dessups, RBP and other officials due to COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing vaccination program is vital for safer community.

Reported by:

Regional Livestock Development Centre, Tsimasham

Department of Livestock, MoAF