THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The statewide anti-rabies vaccination drive for stray dogs seems to have overlooked the threat posed by the infection in wild animals, especially in the forest fringe areas.
Wild animals are considered reservoirs of viruses including Rabies lyssavirus which causes rabies. Frequent encounters between wild and domestic animals leave a spillover effect that would reduce the impact of vaccination campaigns being conducted in the state, say experts
Following a rise in incidents of stray dog bites and rabies deaths, the state government launched a massive vaccination campaign on September 20 to inoculate dogs. The health and animal husbandry departments have identified hotspots based on the number of dog bites to provide special attention to vaccination in those areas. However, the importance of the drive in fringe locations near forest areas has not been given the emphasis they require.
“It remains an unaddressed area. The rabies infections in the forest are rarely reported. The frequent straying of wild animals into human habitations near forests opens up the possibility of transmission of the rabies virus,” said Dr S Nandakumar, Disease Investigation Officer and pathologist, State Institute for Animal Diseases, Palode.
“We can try oral vaccination on wild animals straying into human habitats along with regular vaccination of all animals in forest fringe areas. The idea is to create an immune belt to prevent the encroachment of pathogens,” he said.
The strategies for effectively preventing the transmission of rabies virus from wild animals are still at a nascent stage. But experts have highlighted the human-animal interface for all emerging diseases in the state, including rabies, Nipah, Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD), Scrub Typhus etc.
“There is a need to strengthen surveillance at fringe locations. The very idea of ‘One Health’ is that disease prevention and eradication activities can’t be limited to humans alone,” Dr Althaf A, an epidemiologist and associate professor at GMCH, Thiruvananthapuram.