OTTAWA, ON (September 22, 2022) – Each year, September 28th marks World Rabies Day – a time dedicated to raising awareness about ending the fatal zoonotic disease across the globe – including right here in Canada. Throughout communities in Canada's North, the threat of rabies is ever-present, creating lethal risks for both dogs and their human families. Rabies is endemic in the northern wild fox population, and as climate change expands their range and drives them closer to communities, interactions between dogs and foxes are becoming increasingly common. This is, in turn, elevating the risk of rabies transmission. As part of our Northern Animal Health Initiative (NAHI), Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) has partnered with communities throughout the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to provide veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations and lay volunteer training, which, otherwise, would be near-impossible to access. Our NAHI program aligns with The Global Strategic Plan to end dog-mediated rabies by 2030.
“Rabies is a deadly disease – but also one that is highly preventable,” said Dr. Michelle Tuma, a practicing veterinarian and northern Canada liaison at VWB. “As a veterinarian living in Yellowknife, and working with VWB’s NAHI program throughout many remote communities, I have seen first-hand the positive impact that vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and rabies awareness can make,” said Tuma. “This work not only protects people and animals but empowers community members to better protect themselves against rabies, including through training that enables community members to vaccinate their animals when veterinarians are inaccessible,” Tuma added.
Each year, the VWB teams travel to remote northern communities, based on requests and invites, to provide veterinary care and services. To date, VWB has worked in 10 northern communities and has had multiple requests to expand our visits.
“Rabies prevention is part of the One Health approach, which VWB operates under," said Charmaine Brett, executive director of VWB. "As climate change increases the threat of zoonotic diseases, such as ebola, COVID-19, monkeypox, and also rabies, the need is greater than ever for preventative solutions. By working with our community partners to provide vaccination programs throughout the North, along with spay/neuter clinics and direct access to animal health professionals, we are very optimistic that we can help to eradicate dog-mediated rabies throughout northern communities,” said Brett.
About Veterinarians Without Borders Canada
Using a One Health approach, Veterinarians Without Borders Canada (VWB) works for, and with, communities in need to foster the health of animals, people and the environments that sustain us. VWB works in Africa and Asia to improve the living conditions of the most disadvantaged rural populations through veterinary and agricultural services, sustainable animal production, training, value chain development and sustainable natural resource management. Additionally, we support remote Northern Canadian communities to improve animal health through temporary spay and neuter clinics, reduce the spread of rabies, and work to create the conditions for long-term, community-led sustainable animal health services.
Learn more at vetswithoutborders.ca