Rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease that causes an estimated 55,000 human deaths every year globally.
In Bhutan, cases of rabies are mainly reported in the southern parts of the country along the border with India. Reports of cases in east and south-west Bhutan indicate that there is a risk of the disease re-emerging in places that have been free of the disease in recent years.
Domestic dogs are responsible for transmission of rabies to livestock and humans. However, the size of the Bhutanese dog population (owned and unowned) and vaccination coverage within that population is unknown. There are also no data available concerning the size of the home ranges of stray dogs and how often they move within and without those ranges. Data such as these are essential for the development of effective control programmes, this project is aiming to provide reliable data in these areas.
Three canine studies are being conducted in the two municipal areas of Gelephu and Phuentsholing, along the Indian border in southern Bhutan.
- Estimation of the size of the free-roaming dog population and the rabies vaccination coverage within that population using a mark-resight survey method.
- Estimating the size of the owned dog population and the proportion of owned dogs that are free-roaming.
- Mapping the movement pattern and activity range of free-roaming dogs using radio-collar telemetry.
A fourth study, is collecting retrospective data from all the major medical hospitals in Bhutan to investigate the epidemiology of dog bites in people and the uptake of anti-rabies vaccine in Bhutan between 2009–2012.
The combined outputs from these four studies will be used to produce policy recommendations for enhancing the rabies control program in Bhutan.