Port-au-Prince, June 27, 2017 (Panaftosa/PAHO)-The government of Brazil has donated 15,000 doses of human rabies vaccine to Haiti, with the support of the Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center of the Pan American Health Organization (Panaftosa/PAHO). The rabies vaccines are intended to protect humans after they have been exposed to rabies.
The Brazilian Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros, delivered this donation in person to his counterpart, Marie Greta Roy Clément, the Minister of Public Health and Population of Haiti, at a ceremony also attended by the PAHO/WHO Representative in Haiti, Luis Codina, and the Director of Panaftosa, Ottorino Cosivi, held last week in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
The region of the Americas is very close to eliminating human rabies transmitted by dogs and Haiti is one of the few countries where this disease occurs. For this reason it is a priority country, where PAHO/WHO, through Panaftosa, its specialized center in Veterinary Public Health, supports national actions to eliminate this disease. In addition to facilitating the human rabies vaccine donation process, PAHO/WHO has also been supporting, since 2016, the training of 283 Haitian health professionals working in 110 health centers. The training covers medical care of people who have been exposed to the rabies virus, in seven of the 10 departments that are in the country. The trainings of health professionals in the 3 remaining departments (Grand'Anse, Sud e Nippes) are scheduled for the next months.
PAHO/WHO has been working with the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population to ensure that the 110 health centers have the vaccine available and that professionals are trained to apply it in all of them. These actions aim to improve access to treatment for the most vulnerable people. They have worked together to distribute information materials in the local language on rabies and on how to act in case of aggression by dogs that may have rabies.
Another key action for the elimination of human rabies transmitted by dogs is the canine vaccination campaigns implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development of Haiti. These actions benefit from technical collaboration by Panaftosa and the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a WHO Collaborating Centre for Rabies, as well as other national and international actors.
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus transmitted to humans through bites or scratches from infected animals (mainly dogs and wild animals such as bats). There are safe and effective vaccines to prevent rabies in animals, as well as vaccines for human use to be administered before and after suspicious exposures. The immediate cleaning of the wound and vaccination as soon as possible after contact with an allegedly rabid animal, in most cases, prevents the onset of illness and death.
The number of cases of human rabies in the Americas has declined more than 95% since 1980. However, some countries continue to report cases. High vaccination coverage of dogs has reduced the frequency of canine rabies cases and most countries of the region have succeeded in eliminating human rabies transmitted by dogs.