Canine Rabies and its Implications for Human Health in Sri Lanka
Rabies is an endemic viral zoonotic disease in Sri Lanka. Dogs are the main reservoir and transmitter, making surveillance of canine rabies crucial for disease elimination. Sri Lanka is one of the Asian countries where human deaths from rabies have been reduced markedly, but it still remains a significant public health problem. Ninety-five percent of human cases in the country are attributed to dog bites. Human settlement patterns allow the existence of dogs. The size of the dog populations is dependent on the habitat, especially the availability of resources such as food, water, and shelter. Although most dogs are owned, many ownerless dogs are allowed to roam freely resulting in vaccination coverage in dogs is heterogeneous. Other terms for ownerless dogs, i.e., dogs which do not have an acknowledged owner include community dogs and stray dogs. Such type of ownerless dogs are more common in rural as compared to urban areas. The frequency of vaccination in ownerless dogs is below the required level. Human attitudes towards dogs, especially ideas of responsible ownership, dog-keeping practices, and other aspects of human behavior influence rabies transmission risk. Research is required to reduce existing gaps in understanding of the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of the general population regarding the need for both dog population control and for rabies vaccination. Additionally, an improved understanding of dog demography and the ecological context of dog populations is essential for increasing dog vaccination coverage, achieving more effective vaccination campaign planning, and better determining the needs of dog population management programs. In order to achieve control of and finally eliminate rabies in Sri Lanka, the epidemiology of canine rabies in the country should be studied in relation to dog ecology and social aspects of pet ownership. A well-executed rabies control program needs to be based on integrated information regarding dog populations including an understanding of relevant differences in environmental habitats, in human cultures and social strata, and in different epidemiological situations. This article examines the rabies situation in Sri Lanka with respect to trends in human and canine rabies and identifies challenges ahead for rabies elimination.
Ubeyratne JKH, Srikitjakarn L, Pfeiffer DU, Kohnle L, Sunil-Chandra NP, Chaisowwong W and Hemwan P