This year saw the introduction of the World Rabies Day MSD Animal Health Awards. Nominations were invited from around the world to recognize people and organisations that have made a difference in rabies control. The final winners, voted by judges from MSD Animal Health, Global Alliance for Rabies Control, WHO, OIE, FAO, the CDC, and a group vote from MSD Animal Health (imagine a public phone-in for a reality TV competition), showed real dedication to controlling this disease and were recognized by the community and colleagues for all that they did.
There were many inspiring stories among the nominees and we wanted to give you an idea of why the winners were selected.
Dr Thinlay Bhutia – Asia
Dr. Thinlay Bhutia leads the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health Program (SARAH), which was the first government-sanctioned state-wide control program. He has been working to reduce the threat of rabies for 10 years. He has also led responses to earthquakes in India and Nepal to ensure displaced dogs were vaccinated.
Dr Agnes Korir – Sub-Saharan Africa
Dr Korir founded the Sharon Live On Foundation twelve years ago after losing her daughter to rabies. The foundation has performed over 270,000 dog vaccinations in that time. In addition, they have held over 60 “sensitization sessions” which aim to raise awareness and educate the community about rabies.
On hearing about the award Dr Korir said, “Winning this award is a dedication to every mother and father who has lost their child to rabies to know that whatever they do in their own small way is important to ensure no other parent undergoes the same pain and anguish.”
Professor Kastriot Korro – Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia & Europe
Professor Korro has been raising community awareness for the protection of both people and animals against rabies in Albania since 1996. He told us, “This award pushes me further towards my initiative of preventing rabies. It is a motivation for me to work harder, to train my staff in the rabies field (something I did in the previous years by using only my [own] funds unfortunately), to create a website in Albania so big so that everyone can be informed daily and, last but not least, to keep protecting people and teaching them how they should protect themselves.”
Dr Sergio Recuenco-Cabrera – Americas
Dr. Sergio Recuenco-Cabrera has been a strong advocate for the indigenous peoples of the high Amazon in Peru. According to his nominator, most of his advocacy has been extracurricular and at his own expense. He has been involved in handling serious rabies outbreaks in both Peru and Ecuador. Amongst his many achievements, four notable ones are the cessation in Peru of the use of nerve-tissue derived vaccines, the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis in remote Peruvian villages, the capacitation of the rabies laboratory, and incursions into the Amazon to study vampire bat exposure in indigenous peoples.
Visakha Society for Protection And Care of Animals – Asia
Formed in 1996 to advocate against the brutal killing of street dogs, VSPCA has worked with local authorities to implement anti-rabies programmes. Pradeep Nath of VSPCA sent the following message after they heard they had won: “This prestigious award will instill more confidence in us, boost our efforts, and inspire us to move ahead to achieve our objectives.”
Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society – Sub-Saharan Africa
Liberia does not have an official rabies control program, and little is known there about the disease. LAWCS provide community rabies education programs, dog bite prevention programs, and free rabies vaccination. Much of this has been done in conjunction with Veterinarians Without Borders. They have implemented a “Responsible Dog Ownership Program” which aims to improve the welfare of dogs, and has provided free veterinary care and treatment to over 500 dogs a year.
Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection – Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia & Europe
Working to improve animal welfare since 2009, the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection has used TV, radio, newspapers and seminars to raise awareness and to educate people, especially children. It is the only organization working in the animal welfare sphere in Kurdistan.
Amongst others, some of their key current activities are providing a veterinary service operated by volunteer vets. They have worked with parliament to approve a law protecting animals, build an animal shelter, and publish a book on domestic animal husbandry.
Zach Jones Memorial Fund – Americas
Tragically, Zach Jones died in 2006 after exposure to a bat infected with rabies. His parents launched the memorial fund a year later. The fund aims to promote rabies awareness and research. Outreach efforts have included the production of YouTube videos to reach teens and young adults. Additionally, they have funded the supply of medicines to Brazil, Colombia and Peru for the treatment of human rabies.
Larry and Connie Jones said, “Our goal then and now has been to support education, especially [of] our young children on the dangers or rabies. Also, research is paramount to us and that’s why many of our funds go to help this effort.” We would like to thank all those who took part, either nominating people, voting, or being the nominees. Rabies control is important for the safety of human and animal lives, and this event has been a great way to shine a light on those who go the extra mile to make the difference.