“Without these heroes, we would not stand a chance of winning the battle against rabies”.
Find out more about the rabies virus on our ‘Diseases’ page
Rabies Heroes 2021
Dr Imam Mzimbiri
Dr Imam Mzimbiri
Rabies Free Africa, Tanzania – Rabies Hero October 2021
Dr Imam Mzimbiri is a Tanzanian veterinarian who has been engaged in rabies control for over 12 years, leading the largest mass dog vaccination program in Tanzania, which is carried out around the Serengeti National Park. He received a Rabies Hero Award for making a real difference in protecting the Serengeti from rabies, vaccinating thousands of dogs every year, often living away from his home.
Imam is a humble vet who has been working with Rabies Free Africa for many years and played a key part in protecting the people and wildlife from rabies. He leads a team of field officers, coordinating and delivering mass dog vaccination to remote villages. To do this, he spends 9 months of the year away from his family, working in the field under challenging conditions, utterly dedicated to eliminating this terrible disease. He has also contributed to peer-reviewed publications focused on rabies elimination.
Receiving the award Imam told us: “Working against rabies to me means saving human lives from this deadly disease which causes deaths to thousands of people each year. It is important because it kills both humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. In our project, we conduct mass dog vaccinations in which we vaccinate approximately 40,000 dogs per year.” This has helped to reduce the disease in dogs and in wildlife, but most importantly it was proven to be the most effective way to protect people, as Imam said: “It is very expensive to treat a person bitten by a rabid dog, in terms of transport, accommodation, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Through our project, we managed to increase awareness of rabies in the community by educating people and it also improved the veterinary care.”
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), United Kingdom – Rabies Hero June 2021
Professor Anthony R. Fooks has been named a Rabies Hero in recognition of his achievements as a passionate fighter for freedom from rabies, both internationally and in his home country UK. He has a long history of engagement in rabies control and played a vital role in strengthening the global response through his work with the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) building strategic alliances focusing on combating the disease in parts of the world where rabies still remains a daily threat for dogs and people.
Prof. Fooks has been involved in designing international outreach strategies for rabies and played an instrumental role in setting up rabies reference laboratories in China and India. He continues to actively engage in projects in Africa and Asia to help countries undertake rabies elimination in dogs, as part of a One Health program to improve preparedness and response to zoonotic emergencies.
He is a recognized expert in rabies and rabies-related viruses, well known for his scientific research focused on ‘One Health’. He has made a difference in a wide range of areas, including disease detection, surveillance, rabies epidemiology in Africa and developing rabies vaccines. He had advocated for a strategic shift towards vaccination of dogs to reduce the burden of the disease in humans. He also participated in efforts to improve access to safe and affordable rabies post-exposure treatment in developing countries.
On the international arena, Prof. Fooks has been pivotal in driving forward initiatives and networks for global rabies elimination, such as The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) and The Partners for Rabies Prevention (PRP). He believes that the world must drive immediate attention to this neglected disease and as such was one of initiators of the World Rabies Day (WRD), an annual global observance on 28th September to attract support and increase awareness of rabies worldwide. He also actively engaged in WRD awareness activities through running, climbing, and fundraising.
Receiving the awards Prof. Fooks said: “As Director of an International Reference Laboratory for rabies, the elimination of rabies in resource-limited regions of the world continues to be a global commitment and remains a priority of the Millennium Development Goals in reducing poverty and preventable childhood deaths from infectious diseases”.
Click here to see pictures from some of the many projects he was involved in.
Dr. Mashair Ismail
Dr. Mashair Ismail
Central Veterinary Laboratory, Iraq, Rabies Hero June 2021
Dr. Mashair Ismail received the Rabies Hero Award for her monumental efforts in improving rabies control rabies in Iraq. Establishing in-country molecular testing and sequencing to analyze the virus strains circulating has been critical for understanding the disease in the region. Her dedication has been remarkable. She has been working on rabies for many years, collecting samples in difficult situations, determined to increase the knowledge of rabies and enhance control strategies in the country. Her efforts continued despite the massive challenges at times of conflict.
Receiving the award Dr. Ismail was very humble and said: “I am deeply honored and appreciative of this award, which reflects the efforts through these ten years. Despite all the adverse elements in our country we were able to a make giant stride and achieve significant progress in controlling this disease.”
Her unwavering commitment and perseverance in overcoming hurdles are especially evident through the story of Dr. Ismail’s work told us by her nominator and a long-term collaborator at the University of Surrey, Dr. Dan Horton, read more.
Dr. Charles E. Rupprecht
Dr. Charles E. Rupprecht
LYSSA LLC, USA, March 2021
Dr. Charles E. Rupprecht received a Rabies Hero Award for his outstanding contributions on the road to eliminating rabies. He has been a driving force at the Rabies in the Americas (RITA) conference for three decades, fostering collaborations to provide solutions to achieve global freedom from human deaths from dog-mediated rabies.
His work in the area of infectious diseases, in particular those within the One Health context, has made a significant difference in the field of control and elimination of rabies. His publications are considered seminal, influencing rabies control in wildlife and domestic animals. His expertise in lyssaviruses including epidemiology, diagnosis, and prophylaxis has helped organizations, governments and individuals, in furthering their efforts related to the prevention, control, and treatment of this deadly disease of humans and animals.
Receiving the award Dr. Rupprecht told us:
“We live on a veritable sea of rabies, and once you experience firsthand the combined horror and the sorrow of a case, be it a child or a puppy, you can never forget that episode, but instead must use what little time, talent and treasure is at hand to help prevent and control this ancient, neglected viral disease.”
Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the Philippines – Rabies Hero March 2021
Dr. Beatriz Quiambao received a Rabies Hero Award for her work on intradermal vaccines and vaccination schedules to save lives. She championed for years the access to rabies vaccination for people in the Philippines. She spent decades researching the intradermal administration of vaccines and investigating new schedules for shorter an efficient rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. This award recognizes her commitment focusing on efficient use of the vaccines to prevent deaths from rabies.
Receiving the award Dr. Quiambao said:
“I have worked on rabies for more than 25 years, mainly as a researcher and later, as part of the Technical Working group for the rabies control program of the Philippines Department of Health. I have seen the agony of the last hours of a rabid patient and the hopelessness and despair in the eyes of their loved ones and in the hearts of the health workers who know that death is inevitable.
Rabies is a vaccine preventable disease for both animals and humans. With the current control strategies, no one has to die from rabies. Yet it continues to kill thousands of people each year. The world can be free from this dreadful deadly disease if we put our minds and resources together and collaborate. Let us do our part to make ours a rabies free world.”
Dr. Quiambao has worked as pediatric infectious disease specialist at the RITM for the past 30 years. Her rabies work mainly entails doing clinical, epidemiologic and field research as well as training health care workers on the management of rabies exposures. She provides technical support to the National Rabies Prevention Program of the Philippines and is actively involved with various international rabies organizations.
Kelvin Wee has been working over the last year to raise awareness of rabies and improve veterinary care in Laos. He received the Rabies Hero Award in recognition of his amazing work to put this disease on the agenda, working with minimal resources and overcoming many challenges. Kelvin was deeply humbled to receive the award and dedicated it to his team of volunteers.
Kelvin has been the driving force behind raising rabies awareness in the country. He worked with the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) to improve training for veterinary surgeons and organized volunteer programs to conduct dog surveillance and educate people about dogs and rabies. With very little resource he has been inspirational.
Reflecting on the work during the past year Kelvin told us:
“World Rabies Day was a big success in Laos. We supported the public vaccination which only showed us that while education is still needed here, Lao communities are beginning to understand the importance of vaccinations. A week after that, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations came to visit us and gave 200 vaccines to help start the village-to-village vaccination programme. We have partnered with the National University of Laos’ Veterinary Medicine Faculty to start this but were faced with the monsoon/typhoon season. The rains and floods have forced us to hold surveys and plans for a few weeks for safety sake. We plan on starting the surveys in 2-3 weeks when the threat from flash floods to our student volunteers is over.
As you can see, it has been nothing but challenging. But we hope to have our first village-level rabies campaign in December, just before Christmas. Apart from that, we have established a shelter here where all our animals are vaccinated (not just rabies but other diseases too) which is a first time for Laos.”
Dr. Ryan Wallace
Dr. Ryan Wallace
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, November 2020
Dr. Ryan Wallace, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been a key to the development of a large number of tools that help countries to assess and understand vaccination programs. He goes out into the field to organize and assist in field vaccination. He provides training for governments. As a CDC expert in rabies, Ryan has had a major impact across the globe. His dedication to controlling and eliminating this disease is clear to anyone who meets him.
Receiving the Rabies Hero Award, Ryan said: “It is an honor to be recognized for this award, and to be part of such an inspirational group of Rabies Heroes. Rabies is a local problem that is best addressed when we consider the complex and unique characteristics of community interactions with their resident dog populations. My recognition for this award would never have been possible without my community of collaborators around the world that are working on local rabies control issues every day, in an effort to save lives and livelihoods. This recognition belongs as much to them as it does to me. Thank you!”
Rabies Free Tanzania, Tanzania, September 2020
Machunde Bigambo is the longest-standing member of Rabies Free Tanzania. He is dedicated to eliminating deaths from dog-mediated rabies and received a Rabies Hero Award for his contributions in Tanzania to make this goal a reality. His dedication has been fueled by the sad truth that “Rabies is killing people, especially kids“, as he says.
Chunde has a key role in the Serengeti Health Initiative. He was a member of the Carnivore Disease Research Program in the Serengeti Park in Tanzania, before the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) took over the program in 2009 and is now the assistant program manager. He has been involved in research on thermotolerance of rabies vaccines, ecology and demography of free ranging dogs, as well as how to increase the vaccine uptake.
Mission Rabies, India, September 2020
Praveen Ohal of Mission Rabies received a Rabies Hero Award for his dedication and work towards controlling rabies in India. He works with the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and several groups at different locations and is dedicated to helping achieve the global goal Zero by 30.
Since his childhood, Praveen was driven by the desire to make a difference in the world. In 2001 he set up a charity in Ranchi working to improve animal welfare. In 2013 he joined Mission Rabies, inspired by their dream of a rabies-free world, and worked tirelessly towards making Ranchi a first rabies free city in India. This was achieved in 2017 and Ranchi still celebrates zero human deaths every year.
Praveen is also active providing trainings on dog catching and rabies prevention. Together with Mission Rabies he raised awareness in Thailand, Malaysia and Afghanistan. Receiving the award Praveen told us “My goal is to encourage more people to get involved in the fight against rabies and inspire more people the way your award has inspired me.”
Kenya, January 2020
Dedan Ngatia has been a key leader in the Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign (LRVC) with its annual mobile, free rabies vaccination clinic.
The LRVC serves as a pilot for rabies elimination throughout Kenya and has been one of the most successful county-wide rabies eradication efforts in the country. Dedan has worked side-by-side with community leaders, businesses and the county government to teach lessons to adults and youth in village meetings, schools and online forums. Most people in Laikipia County are pastoral, which means they own many dogs to help them defend and herd their livestock. There is a high level of mixing between humans, domestic dogs and wildlife, which creates an environment where rabies outbreaks are frequent and devastating for both people and endangered wildlife. In addition, Dedan has developed programs alongside community leaders to educate the people of Laikipia on rabies awareness, prevention and best practices for caring for dogs and cats.
Dedan has greatly expanded the number of dogs and cats treated through the LRVC and helped grow the number of communities reached by the campaign. Since the effort began in 2015, about 30,000 rabies vaccinations have been administered to dogs and cats in Laikipia county. An estimated 300,000 people have benefited from the vaccination of these animals.
Dr. Sergio Recuenco
Dr. Sergio Recuenco
National University of San Marcos, Peru, January 2020
Dr. Sergio Recuenco, assistant Professor at the National University of San Marcos, Peru, is a leader in the field of rabies transmitted via vampire bats. He has campaigned passionately for the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, populations heavily exposed to vampire bat bites.
“Rabies deaths are avoidable,” says Sergio.“The fact that people still die of this disease in the 21st century, when all tools to prevent it are known and available, is the most powerful indicator of unacceptable global health disparities,” he adds.
Dr. Recuenco has been involved in various collaborative research and field work including in Guatemala (the study in 2009 led to the discovery of Influenza A in bats of the Americas, and other new pathogens) and Peru (in 2010, leading to the discovery of rabies antibodies in humans never vaccinated, and new pathogens in bats of the Amazon Basin).
Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA), India, January 2020
Rachel Wright received a Rabies Hero Award for her dedication to the Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA) charity based in India. Founded by Rachel in 2005, TOLFA has been sterilising and vaccinating dogs against rabies since the animal hospital opened 15 years ago. Together with her team she has built trust within the local community. She educates children and rural communities about the benefit of rabies vaccinations for animals and people and teaches dog bite prevention and first aid. As a part of these efforts, Rachel liaises with local humanitarian nongovernmental organizations and schools, so that when rabid dog bites are reported, a smooth rescue operation is in place, and the affected community members receive rabies vaccinations.
Raising awareness about rabies in local communities is something Rachel feels very strongly about as education is the key to a kinder and safer world. She says: “India has the highest number of rabies cases of anywhere in the world, mostly due to the high level of stray dogs living on the streets,” says Rachel. “Seeing a dog with rabies can be a part of people’s everyday life, and even as a trained veterinary professional, it can be a devastating and terrifying experience. Over the last 15 years with TOLFA working in this area, it has been amazing to see how people’s perceptions of the dogs are changing from a fear-based attitude to being kinder and more friendly toward them.”
In 2019 TOLFA reached over 1650 children plus their teachers and guardians through their Rabies Awareness Education Project.
Dr. Renée van Rheede van Oudtshoorn
Dr. Renée van Rheede van Oudtshoorn
Community Veterinary Services for Southern Africa, January 2020
Dr. Renée van Rheede van Oudtshoorn has worked to protect people for over a decade, empowering communities against rabies. She is a recipient of a Rabies Hero Award for her work with the Community Veterinary Services for Southern Africa. Working in villages and towns in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, Renée regularly manages rabies campaigns, providing free sterilizations and vaccinations to the animals in poor rural areas where access to veterinary care is limited.
“I am very humbled and this award means a lot to our team”, said Renée. When asked what working against rabies means to her, she said: “The most rewarding feeling is knowing the vaccination coverage we can provide. Despite that so often, human post exposure vaccines are not accessible, we possibly saved these childrens’ lives by the work we do.” She also adds: “Being in contact with rabies and suspected rabies cases in the rural communities we work in, witnessing dog bite wounds in children , seeing the panic in parents hearts… being a mother myself and realising how REAL rabies is on our continent… it keeps us motivated.”
Prof. Sarah Cleaveland
Prof. Sarah Cleaveland
University of Glasgow, United Kingdom, January 2020
Prof. Sarah Cleaveland is well-known in her field for her passion and commitment to saving people from disease. She is the founder of the Afya Foundation and professor of Comparative Epidemiology, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow. Projects led by Sarah have demonstrated that the transmission of rabies could be controlled and eventually eliminated by vaccinating domestic dogs in the Serengeti, protecting wildlife, domestic animals and local villagers.
“I’m deeply honored to receive this award, which reflects the work of so many people committed to eliminating rabies from the world,” says Prof. Cleaveland. “However, I’m baffled that more than 100 year after Louis Pasteur developed the first rabies vaccines and after extensive research to show that rabies elimination is feasible, how can it be true that so many people are still suffering such horrifying deaths from a disease that is so preventable? The veterinary profession has many responsibilities, but we have to find a way to scale up mass dog vaccination. What can be more important than protecting millions of the most vulnerable people in the world from such a terrible disease?”
We are grateful for Sara’s life-long dedication to support the rabies control efforts. As she says herself: “My contributions have been very much part of a large team effort. I hope that this award will provide an opportunity to recognise that much of the work and progress has been and will be made by African scientists and field teams.”
Kevin le Roux
Kevin le Roux
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development in South Africa, February 2020
Kevin le Roux is the Rabies Project Manager for the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development in South Africa. He is the recipient of a Rabies Hero Award for his work in rabies education, as well as community outreach and engagement. Kevin has been a leading light in driving the efforts and it is impossible to think of rabies control in the KZN province without him.
“We have all the tools and the evidence that dog vaccinations are the answer,” comments Kevin. “The solution lies in the implementation of effective campaigns, which is about people, as well as government and community support for those awareness efforts.”
Receiving the Rabies Hero Award Kevin said: “I don’t see myself as being a hero. I am just doing everything I can to stop at least one more person from dying this unspeakable death”. He believes that “animal health technicians who brave so many difficult obstacles everyday are the heroes” and that we have to “find champions who can drive control efforts and support them”.
South Africa, June 2020
Daniel Stewart, dog behaviorist and handling expert, is recognized as a Rabies Hero Award recipient for his work with teaching people how to safely interact with dogs. Daniel teaches proper animal handling techniques, which has contributed towards reduced dog bite injuries. Daniel also emphasizes changing people’s attitudes towards dogs, pushing the focus away from them being seen as the ‘bad guy’ in rabies spread and encouraging healthy relationships between humans and dogs.
“I am passionate about having communities see that dogs are as much the victims of this terrible disease as people. It is very easy for communities to blame dogs for spreading rabies and as a result their welfare often suffers. This is a great opportunity to educate and enlighten countries and individuals alike, to demonstrate that by improving their relationship with dogs they can, in fact, eliminate rabies within a community,” stated Daniel.
Prof. Louis Nel
Prof. Louis Nel
Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), South Africa, March 2020
Louis Nel, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Executive Director for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), received a Rabies Hero Award for his demonstrated dedication towards the prevention, control and eventual elimination of rabies. Under Nel’s leadership, GARC and his team at the University of Pretoria, along with their global contributors, have founded the Pan African and Asian Rabies Control Networks, PARACON and ARACON, respectively, as well as the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Northern African Rabies Control Network (MERACON).
Louis believes strongly in the roles of the international community and national governments — working together — to eliminate rabies for both the health of dogs but also humans. “The international community role includes global advocacy, the coordination of regional and global inter-sectoral rabies networks, vaccine security, and the provision of practical education”, he asserts. His vision of a world without rabies has been inspirational. “The elimination of dog-mediated human rabies is an ambitious goal, which would not only put an end to one of the world’s oldest, deadliest and ugliest zoonoses, but which would also make an immense contribution towards the validation of the modern-day One Health concept,” comments Louis.
Dr. Luke Gamble
Dr. Luke Gamble
Mission Rabies United Kingdom, July 2020
Dr. Luke Gamble, Chief Executive Officer of the Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and Mission Rabies, receives a Rabies Hero Award for his passion for animal welfare and rabies control. From the launches of WVS India and WVS Thailand and their international training centers, to the Mission Rabies project to eliminate rabies from Malawi and the Indian State of Goa, Luke has worked tirelessly campaigning for the health and welfare of animals across the globe.
Luke has made a massive difference in many rabies endemic countries through vaccination and education campaigns, and has inspired many to keep on persevering, driven by the desire to see rabies eliminated.
“Being part of an incredible team that champions for both the animals and people who are impacted by this terrible disease has been one of the most fantastic and humbling opportunities of my career. Rabies affects the most vulnerable people in some of the poorest places in the world. The realization that we can beat it, fuels the fire to power forward and do as much as we can in the time we have,” says Luke. “It’s a huge honour to receive this award and it is entirely thanks to working with the most amazing people.”
Dr. Felix Lankester
Dr. Felix Lankester
Washington State University, USA / Rabies Free Africa, February 2020
Dr. Felix Lankester, Assistant Professor at the Washington State University Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health and Director of Rabies Free Tanzania has been named a Rabies Hero for his innovative work in rabies control to save the lives of both animals and people. Based in East Africa, Dr. Lankester has led rabies control efforts that have changed mindsets about treating rabies to save human lives. His research interests include investigating novel methods of rabies vaccine delivery.
“Rabies is the most lethal infectious disease known to man,” asserts Dr. Lankester. “It kills over 60,000 people every year, mostly children, and it is spread by our best friend, the domestic dog. As a vet, I feel it is my profession that should lead the way in ridding the world of this horrific disease. And we can easily achieve this by vaccinating our dogs.”
Dr. Lankester’s work has focused on new ways to increase rabies vaccination efforts in determination to control rabies around the world.
Animal Welfare ILHA, Mozambique, April 2020
Vittoria Sogno is the co-founder of Animal Welfare ILHA (AWI) on the island of Mozambique. Her work educating local populations and creating awareness of the plight of animals have dramatically changed attitudes to dogs on the island.
After noticing poor attitudes towards dogs in the community, Vittoria sought a way to make change. Now, every dog that has been sterilized receives a beaded collar to indicate that the animal is not a threat. The initiative has been successful in reducing dog bites and improving attitudes surrounding dog populations in the area over the last several years.
In the past, people were stoning and beating dogs. They had no idea how these animals could become an integral part of their daily lives. In comparison, today dogs roam the streets and beaches of Mozambique freely. They are happy, loved and well cared for. The majority of requests for rabies vaccinations now comes from the local population. “For AWI, this change in attitude is the most gratifying part of our work,” commented Vittoria.
Receiving her Rabies Hero Award Vittoria said: “We are a small clinic and every bit of positive feedback makes it all the more worthwhile. This award will give everyone a morale boost and an incentive to do better”.
Image credits: Mission Rabies (Banner), Marta Nowak (Lower)
How you can make a difference
Find out some of the ways that you can help towards ending human deaths from dog-mediated rabies. #ZeroBy30.