Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Supervisor

Olea-Popelka, Francisco J.

Abstract

Rabies, a viral zoonotic disease, is widespread in Zimbabwe, with human fatalities reported annually in the country. To supplement the Government’s effort on rabies control, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe have joined forces to carry out dog rabies vaccinations in rural communities adjacent to the major tourist attraction of The Victoria Falls. A One Health approach was used to 1) determine the level of protective rabies antibodies among a sample of rural dogs and 2) collect information and describe the knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to rabies among dog owners. In 2020, blood was collected from dogs and a survey was implemented among dog owners. Rabies antibody levels were evaluated using the BioPro Rabies ELISA Ab kit for 498 dogs, with a percentage of blocking ≥70% classified as having protective rabies antibodies (PrAbs). At time of sampling in 2020, 32.1% of dogs had PrAbs. Among previously vaccinated dogs, 44.8% had PrAbs. The proportion of previously vaccinated dogs with PrAbs decreased with time since vaccination, with(87.5%), 1-2 years (45.1%) and >2 years (31.2%). A multivariable logistic model revealed that the odds of having PrAbs was significantly associated with dogs being previously vaccinated, being overweight and among dogs not used for herding cattle. KAP responses among dog owners indicated low awareness (3.8%) of appropriate wound management as a critical first step for post-bite care. Dog rabies vaccinations should be increased in this area to protect dogs, and thus prevent human infection and death.

Summary for Lay Audience

Rabies is a fatal viral disease, distributed globally, and transmitted to people primarily through dog bites. Rabies is widespread in Zimbabwe, with human fatalities reported annually in the country. To supplement the Government’s effort on rabies control, Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe have joined forces to carry out dog rabies vaccinations in rural communities adjacent to the major tourist attraction of The Victoria Falls. This thesis uses a One Health approach, to address the challenges rabies poses to dogs, people, and wildlife in the specific ecosystem of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The research project aimed to determine the rabies immune status among dogs and collect information about knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) to better understand behaviours and interactions between dogs, people, and wildlife in rural Victoria Falls (VF). In 2020, as part of this masters’ project, blood samples were obtained from dogs and a survey was implemented among dog owners in rural VF. Rabies antibodies were evaluated for 498 dogs, with a percentage of blocking ≥70% classified as having protective rabies antibodies (PrAbs). In total, 500 surveys were completed by 342 dog owners. At time of sampling in 2020, 32.1% (160/498) of dogs had PrAbs. Among previously vaccinated dogs, 44.8% (133/297) had PrAbs. The proportion of dogs with PrAbs decreased with time since vaccination, with(87.5%), 1-2 years (45.1%) and >2 years (31.2%). Prior rabies vaccination, body condition and herding cattle were factors associated with having PrAbs. KAP responses from dog owners indicated that most respondents knew that rabies is fatal to people (91.8%) and knew where to get post-exposure treatment for rabies (90.6%). Although most (87.4%) dog owners would seek medical attention if bitten by a dog, only 3.8% would wash the wound with soap and water, the recommended first-step for post-bite treatment. Evaluating the rabies antibody levels in the dog population is important to guide the process to re-vaccinate these animals. Rabies vaccinations efforts in dogs should be increased in this area to protect and prevent rabies in dogs and thus prevent human infection and deaths.

Available for download on Monday, July 31, 2023

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