4.2.1. Assessing the science

Usually, the basis for health communication is scientific knowledge and epidemiological analysis. Here are some examples of important scientific evidence on which to base your planning.

- Which animals are most likely to transmit rabies in my country/region?

If human rabies cases in your country are primarily caused by exposure to rabid dogs, efforts should be targeted towards preventing dog exposures. If the main source of rabies is wildlife, on the other hand, messages should be focused on wildlife.

The map below gives a general idea of which animals can transmit rabies to people in each continent, but, overall, more than 99% humans rabies cases are caused by a dog bite.

 Reservoirs of Rabies

- In many countries, dogs are the animals most likely to infect humans with rabies. What do we know about dogs and rabies?

It has been established by scientists that the most efficient way of preventing rabies in humans is to vaccinate domestic dogs, see this reference.

If 70% of dogs in an area are vaccinated, and this figure can be maintained over time, the disease can be eliminated in dogs and therefore in people, see this reference.

- What do we know about the people who are most at risk of rabies?

It has been shown that children are most at risk, but that in many rabies-endemic countries, some of the most at-risk children are not at school, see the study by Sambo et al. here.

In some countries the increasing risk of rabies infection is associated with poverty which makes the disease a priority public health concern.

- Is local data already available for the region where I will be delivering my messages?

Government data – If rabies cases have to be reported by law in the country or region where you are working, the national or regional government may keep statistics on cases of rabid dogs and/or dog bites. In many rabies-endemic countries, however, these systems are not yet in place.

Studies may have been conducted that can provide data to help you decide on the people who are most vulnerable and on who most needs to be involved in rabies prevention in a locality. Research institutes may maintain databases of rabies case data, even if it is not officially collected by the government.

Health and veterinary services – Health or veterinary services may keep records on human and animal vaccination and treatment of dog bite cases. These can help in assessing the levels of dog vaccination coverage and the type of people most at risk of dog bites. They can also help you to assess whether the situation has improved after you have delivered messages related to the rabies vaccination campaign.

Where no official data have been gathered at all, you may be able to conduct household surveys in a given area to estimate the number of dog bites and which groups are most likely to be bitten.

Gathering baseline information is useful, especially at the end of the campaign to determine if the messages and interventions were effective in increasing knowledge and affecting behaviour change towards rabies prevention and disease elimination.




next page: 4.2.2. Defining the purpose of the communication






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Version 4 - last updated May 2017