Rabies Training Workshop: Toward Rabies Control – Epidemiology, Diagnosis, Vaccination.

Rabies is a neurological disease that affects all mammals and caused by rabies virus, a neurotropic virus. It is one of the oldest diseases known to humanity and world widely distributed, with exception of some countries. Rabies claims a life of approximately 59,000 people each year. Despite being invariably fatal once symptoms appear, infection can be prevented 100% through timely intervention.

In light of the “ZERO BY 30: the Global Strategic Plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030”, the Scientific and Technical Office of REMESA (STOR) organized for its first Training course on Rabies as a significant step towards eradicating rabies by 2030.

STOR coordinated for this training course with WAOH/FAO secretariat in Tunisia and Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe); which hosted and managed the course activities.

The overarching goal of the Training Course was to impart both theoretical knowledge and practical skills in current rabies surveillance, diagnosis, and control techniques. By doing so, the course empowered participants with additional tools to contribute towards achieving the Zeroby30 goal as outlined in the Global Strategic Plan.

The training course was held at the FAO Reference Centre for Rabies/National Reference Centre for Rabies located at IZSVe during the period of 26-28 September, 2023, coinciding with World Rabies Day on the 28th.

For this course, STOR invited representatives from each REMESA member countries, selected and nominated by corresponding Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) of each country. STOR financially funded participation of colleagues from African and Middle East, reflecting a shared commitment to combat this deadly disease.

The Training Course represented by two days of hands-on activities at the laboratories of the IZSVe and the AULSS6 Sanitary Kennel, followed by a third ½ day of theoretical conference session.

On the first day, the inauguration ceremony welcomed participants with esteemed speakers; Dr. Giovanni Cattoli, Scientific Director of IZSVe; Dr. Paola de Benedictis, Head of the FAO Reference Centre for Rabies; Dr. Rachid Bouguedour, WOAH Sub-Regional Representative for North Africa, REMESA; Dr. Salvatore Seminara, Administrative Director of STOR; and Dr. Cristina Casalone, Scientific Director of STOR. The activities of the day were resumed with featured presentations of participants from North Africa and Middle East on the epidemiological situation of Rabies in their countries, followed by detailed explanation on diagnostics and practical training in the laboratories, including sample collection and brain access techniques. The day was concluded with a tour at IZSVe to discover the capacity building facilities and available instruments. A welcome cocktail, sponsored by Ceva enterprise at the NH Hotel in Padova, was offered for participants in the evening.

The second day commenced with very interesting and scientifically specified lectures on vaccination “importance and programs” and canine population management, followed by practical training on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mass vaccination campaigns. After lunch, participants were picked up to visit the AULSS6 Sanitary Kennel for practical exercises on the capture, handling, and release of stray dogs. A social dinner was organized in the evening.

The final day took the form of a conference, also broadcast online, with Dr. Antonia Ricci, Director-General of IZSVe; Dr. Rachid Bouguedour, WOAH Sub-Regional Representative for North Africa, REMESA; Dr. Soufien Sghaier, in the name of Dr. Mohammed Bengoumi the FAO Sub-Regional Representative for North Africa, REMESA;and Dr. Cristina Casalone, Scientific Director of STOR delivering the opening address. Six experts in the field spoke on three key topics: “One Health: the road to dog rabies control and elimination”, “Animal surveillance: diagnostic harmonization”, and “Control: vaccination of dogs”.

At the end of the event, there was questionnaire to be answered by participants. The questionnaire was concerned with situation, strategies, policies and challenges confronting veterinary authorities for controlling Rabies. The gathered data were collected to be considered by WOAH, FAO, WHO and GARC to ensure Zero Rabies by 2030.

This collaborative effort represents a significant stride forward in the shared mission to eliminate rabies, saving lives and securing a healthier future for both humans and animals across the REMESA region and beyond.

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