Eradicating rabies in Tanzania

Nicole Seven, Evergreen reporter

Guy Palmer has always had an interest in using science to improve animal health. Now as the director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, he lives his passion by researching how to eradicate rabies in Tanzania through the WSU Rabies Vaccination Program.

Palmer has worked at WSU for 25 years and has spent his career finding global solutions to animal borne illnesses. He started working with emerging infectious diseases by studying why they develop and the environmental factors that contribute to the spread.

Palmer’s interest in rabies began in 1974, but he referenced 2010 as the real start for his involvement in the Rabies Vaccination program.

“When you’re interested in helping other countries, you’re helping yourself at the same time,” he said.

Palmer’s goal with his most recent project is to ultimately control the outbreak of rabies in Africa, starting in Tanzania. He said controlling rabies in Tanzania is the first step toward eliminating the disease in surrounding countries.

To solve the continued rabies outbreak, Palmer believes only 60 percent of the canine population in Tanzania needs a vaccination. He derived this number from an equation created during his preliminary research.

This program to eradicate rabies has been successfully implemented since 2010, but Palmer said if it were ever discontinued the problem would resurface.

To gain financial support, Palmer is reaching out to government agencies, global health organizations, students in the veterinary program, and pet-owners.

He said bringing together a unique source of institutions will allow the program to build a broad-base support system.

Palmer said he believes students in multiple disciplines, outside of veterinary medicine, can contribute to eliminating rabies in Tanzania.

Palmer also hopes to use social media to engage with students on this project. He said anyone using social media can advocate for the cause.

Beyond eliminating rabies in dogs, the program also helps the children directly affected by the disease.

Palmer said children have a higher chance of acquiring rabies due to their constant contact with the animals. Children spend more time playing with the animals than adults and are more likely to have one bite them.

As part of Palmer’s program, children with dogs receive slips to record their dogs’ latest vaccination. He said the children take pride in managing their pet’s health.

The key to keeping the program successful is continuing to have a presence in Tanzania, which will only happen with the support of outside organizations, Palmer said.

Students can learn more about and donate to the WSU Rabies Vaccination Program on the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health website.