Animal Welfare Group Fights Rabies in Myanmar

April 11, 2018
Kerry Lengyel

By the end of this pilot program, FOUR PAWS International will have vaccinated 50,000 dogs and cats in Myanmar against rabies.

March 22, 2018 | Pyaung Guang Gyi working with FOUR PAWS to vaccinate dogs and cats in Naypyidaw, Myanmar due to the anti-rabies campaign. Credit: © FOUR PAWS/Amanda Mustard

In 2017, nearly 62,000 people were bit by dogs in Myanmar, and 1000 of those bites resulted in deaths due to rabies infections. This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department. What’s more, of those bit last year, 40% were under the age of 15.

When it comes to rabies, it is largely agreed upon that prevention is the best medicine. With this is in mind, FOUR PAWS International, a global animal welfare organization, is using its widespread reach throughout Myanmar to step in.

Currently in its first phase, the FOUR PAWS pilot project has already vaccinated more than 30,000 dogs and cats for rabies in 220 villages around Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, in just 4 weeks.

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"When we started our work in Myanmar at the beginning of March, it seemed impossible to make so much progress this quickly,” Amir Khalil, DVM, director of project development for FOUR PAWS, said. “Besides the unbearable heat, our team has faced many cultural and logistical obstacles.”

Dr. Khalil spearheads the 40-person team tackling the Myanmar project, made up of local and international veterinarians and organizations. Due to their tremendous work, the area around Naypyidaw is now considered rabies-free.

For its second phase—scheduled to start April 28—FOUR PAWS aims to vaccinate another 20,000 dogs and cats in Bagan.

March 21, 2018 | Tha Pyay Pin working with FOUR PAWS to vaccinate dogs and cats in Naypyidaw, Myanmar due to the anti-rabies campaign. Credit: © FOUR PAWS/Amanda Mustard​​​​​​​

“The fact that we have already vaccinated over 30,000 animals against rabies proves that nothing is impossible,” Dr. Khalil said, “and we are looking forward to working with the residents of Bagan.”

But the sole task of the FOUR PAWS team is not to only vaccinate pets throughout these major cities, but to also educate citizens and local organizations about rabies and animal behavior, including proper handling practices for strays and safe dog catching techniques.

"The misconception that dogs are particularly aggressive when it is hot is unfortunately widespread in Myanmar,” Marina Ivanova, DVM, country director for FOUR PAWS and a member of the project team, said. “Therefore, our task is not only to vaccinate the animals, but also to educate people about rabies.”

Reinforcing both Myanmar's and WHO’s plans to eradicate rabies by 2030, the FOUR PAWS pilot project hopes to help thwart this 100% preventable disease in whatever way it can.