Rabies, a serious zoonotic disease, is endemic in Sri Lanka and has extremely expensive consequences in relation to the cost of control, medical expenses, human lives and animal welfare. National rabies control measures in place are theoretically sound but ineffectively implemented resulting in only minimal impact. BPT in collaboration with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and WSPA conducted (June 2007 to December 2012 ongoing) a successful Rabies and dog population management field trial of a multidimensional protocol developed by an international coalition of experts (ICAM); within the city limits.
Previous control programs (Colombo city limits) involving vaccination of owned dogs and culling of roaming dogs resulted in stable baseline dog rabies numbers averaging 35 per year (1992 to 2007). This denotes a lack of effective herd immunity and a state of endemicity. To positively affect the consequences mentioned initially, dog rabies must be reduced to near zero; else, all roaming dog bites (as the animals' health is uncertain and cannot be monitored or observed) require expensive anti-rabies prophylaxis. Human post exposure prophylaxis costs between US $50 (vaccine regime) to US $ 5,000 (hyper-immune serum) per person whereas anti-rabies vaccine for dogs costs about US $ 1 per dose (3 doses required per dog). A female dog surgical sterilization costs approximately US $14 and this is a permanent one-off procedure. Thus focusing on dog vaccination and sterilization is both more economical and more effective in the drive to eradicate rabies. The BPT/CMC project, by focusing on achieving a total vaccination cover (inclusive of roaming dogs) of greater than 70%, has lowered dog rabies numbers in the city down to 10 in 2010 and only 2 cases up to July 2011. BPT expects effective herd immunity and a near zero dog rabies incidence within Colombo by end 2012.
The excellent success achieved with this methodology merits replication. In addition, resilient, experienced and well trained staff as well as extensive medical and administrative resources (i.e. two well-equipped mobile clinics) will become available at the completion of the CMC project in 2012. Thus it is judicious strategy to broaden the current project outreach to include the Greater Colombo area with the view to augment its impact further and thus encourage the Health Ministry to consider future national level implementation of this system.
The proposed Greater Colombo Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Project expects that by achieving above 70% vaccination and sterilization cover and thus good herd immunity with near zero dog rabies cases in the intervention area; to minimize the costs of rabies prophylaxis as well as create a safer environment for communities and improved welfare for its animals.