Rabies in Ethiopia and the initiated elimination project in North Gondar

By Tamiru Berhnau Denka DVM , Lecturer, University of Gondar, Ethiopia

The human-animal interface is accelerating, expanding, and becoming increasingly more consequential. Over the past three decades, approximately 75 percent of emerging human infectious diseases have been zoonotic.

In Ethiopia, rabies is an important disease that has been recognized for many centuries. The incidence of human post exposure prophylaxis and human rabies cases per million population of Ethiopia were 73.6 and 12.6, respectively. In 1998, Ethiopia reported the highest human death rate due to rabies recorded in Africa, at 43 deaths per million people. It is one of the public health concerns which need formulation of an effective intervention strategy. 

Historic and current emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to rabies control provides a prime example of a zoonotic disease that is being managed more effectively via the One Health approach. A pilot project designed by the joint efforts of the University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia; The Ethiopian public health institute, Addis Ababa Ethiopia; The Ohio state University, Columbus, Ohio and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is aiming to control canine rabies in a northern region of Ethiopia. Components of this effort have been implemented and already there have been successful stories, such as conducting a mass vaccination of dogs and spay—neuter campaigns.

Through the support of committed expertise from CDC, a rabies diagnostic laboratory was established and veterinarians were trained on safe animal capture and humane euthanasia of rabies suspect dogs. To further enhance the chances of success for this rabies elimination project, a rabies task force was created, bringing people from agriculture, human health, and academia together to develop strategies to combat this disease. Over the coming years these many collaborators will continue to enhance components of effective rabies control, and by the next World Rabies Day, perhaps the success story will be the establishment of the first rabies free zone in Ethiopia.