Of recent, health workers especially members of the Veterinary community observed the World Rabies Day celebration. The day provided these stakeholders the opportunity to re-emphasize the existence of this zoonotic disease, educate the masses on the best safety practices and also make a solidarity call to all, to collectively put an end to the killer disease. It was tagged “End Rabies; Collaborate, Vaccinate”.
Again, rabies is a deadly viral zoonotic disease usually transmitted by bite wounds via deposition of infected saliva in or near nerves.
Contrary to the popular conception about rabies, the disease does not affect only dogs. In fact, all warm-blooded animals are susceptible to the infection. However, since dogs are widely kept as pets, their infection is of greater concern to humans. It has been estimated that more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year in Asia and Africa and 98% of those cases are due to people being bitten by dogs that are not vaccinated.
Presently, there is no cure for rabies. Hence, there is a particular emphasis on vaccination as a significant means of combating the disease. Once infection occurs, the situation becomes almost unsalvageable. Therefore, vaccination is key!
Alongside rabies, there are many other infections, both zoonotic and non-zoonotic, ravaging the universe and hoping that we as humans continue to trivialize vaccination that they may continue to wreak their havoc on us and our animals. Some of these infections include; brucellosis, rift valley fever, leptospirosis, influenza, Escherichia coli 0157 infection, canine parvovirus infection, Newcastle disease et cetera.
Scientific breakthroughs over the years have made a number of these infections curable. Nonetheless, the potency of combating these infections prophylactically through vaccination remains unparalleled.
Vaccines work by stimulating an immune response in an animal without causing the disease itself. When a healthy animal is vaccinated, its immune system becomes sensitized and can remember the infectious agent to which it has been vaccinated. This means, if an appropriately vaccinated animal is then exposed to the pathogen against which it has been vaccinated, a level of protection from the disease can be expected.
One of the greatest achievements in veterinary medicine in modern times is the global eradication of a devastating disease of livestock – Rinderpest in 2011, for which vaccination played a central role.
Vaccination is important for animal health, animal welfare, food production and public health. It is a cost-effective method to prevent animal disease, enhance the efficiency of food production and reduce or prevent transmission of zoonotic and foodborne infections to people.
1. Efficiency food production
More efficient animal production and better access to high-quality protein are essential to feed the growing population of humans. In livestock and poultry farming, vaccination helps to maintain animal health and to improve overall production.
2. Control of zoonotic diseases
Vaccination of food animals, companion animals and even wildlife has had a major impact on reducing the incidence of zoonotic diseases in humans. For example, vaccine for Brucellosis- a highly contagious bacterial zoonotic disease was pivotal in the Brucella abortus eradication program in the United States. Today, many countries have severe problems with Brucellosis in cattle, small ruminants and people due to the inaccessibility of available Brucella vaccines for animals.
3. Reduction of the need for antibiotics
Vaccination supports the responsible use of antibiotics by preventing disease or reducing clinical signs so that fewer veterinary medicine treatments are needed. Although antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections, there are many cases where farm animals and pets succumb to viral disease in the first instance, which then leads to a subsequent secondary bacterial infection that may need treatment with antibiotics. So vaccinating for both bacterial and viral disease can help to preserve the future effectiveness of antibiotics.
4. Control of emerging and exotic diseases of animals and humans
Increase in human and animal populations, with accompanying environmental degradation and globalized trade and travel enhance opportunities for transfer of pathogens within and between species. Rapid development of animal vaccines can play a key role in controlling diseases that may emerge as a result of these interactions.
To sum up, it is inevitable that the world will continue to experience the emergence of new human and animal diseases in the coming decades. At the same time, existing infections remain absolutely pertinent, never to be overlooked. All these challenges mandate the need for the medical, veterinary, and public health communities to work together, both locally and internationally for better effectiveness.
Vaccination is and will continue to be an important tool to protect human health, animal health, food safety, and food security. We must therefore embrace it religiously.
Prevention is always better, vaccinate!
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- James A Roth; Veterinary vaccines and their importance to animal health and public health. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877282X11000270
- NOAH; Vaccination for animal health. Available at: https://www.noah.co.uk/briefingdocument/vaccination-animal-health-overview/