Researchers Believe Reducing Dog Population In Rural Areas May Prevent

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
New research from China suggests that domestic dogs are a key factor in the way and rate that rabies is brought to rural areas of China, and that canine population reduction could reduce human virus transmission.

The transmission of rabies is still a challenging issue in many developing countries in the world, and even in rural areas of developed countries. Despite efforts to keep rabies transmission under control, it still runs rampant in some places, including rural areas of China. Because of a lack of sustained animal surveillance, rates of rabies are estimated to be even under-reported in those areas and now researchers believe that domestic dogs may play a role in the expansion and transmission rates in those rural areas.

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Chinese researchers analyzed epidemiological transmission rates between dogs and also between dogs and humans and found the rates were lower than estimated rates for Africa. Dogs are thought to be the main vectors and spreaders of human rabies in African and Asian countries, though researchers are not entirely clear about the epidemiology of the virus spread. Because they are unsure of specifics, it’s hard to improve disease control, particularly in rural areas of China. Using genomic and epidemiological information for what is considered a re-emerged rabies outbreak in the Chinese rural province Yunnan, the study’s authors reformulated dispersal history and estimated transmission rates from dogs to humans as well as from dog to dog.

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Because they found that the rabies virus transmission rates among dogs and rapid dogs mirrored the recorded rates of human rabies cases, they surmise that the domestic dog population is correlated and intervening in the dog population would effectively reduce transmission rates in humans. They believe that in doing so, officials can potentially interfere with the self-sustaining ability of dogs’ epidemics. The authors believe that continued understanding of how rabies is spread is important to control rates, and particularly in rural areas where humans may not be as informed about the transmission rates of dogs to other dogs and to humans. Reducing dog populations could conversely reduce rabies transmissions rates, they propose.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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