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Partnering with Veterinarians and Clients to End Rabies

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

Boy with puppies and line
The WSU rabies vaccination team sees firsthand how important vaccination is to dog owners. Although many in rural Africa may not be able to pay for the vaccine, they walk many miles to have their dog vaccinated.


Beginning in the summer of 2015, the Allen School is partnering with veterinary clinics and their clients to eliminate rabies as a public health problem worldwide. The goal is zero human deaths by 2030.

“We are partnering with veterinary clinics around the country because together we can do more than we could ever do alone,” says Guy Palmer, WSU Senior Director of Global Health.

Each year more than 59,000 people die from rabies worldwide and about half of those deaths are children under the age of 16. In developed countries, such as the United States, rabies is quite rare because of access to vaccinations. But in many developing countries, rabies is not under control. Globally, more than 99% of human rabies deaths are caused by dog bites—almost all of these in Africa and Asia. Vaccinating 70 percent of the dog population will protect humans and wildlife, such as lions, from the disease.

“Rabies is easily preventable with regular dog vaccinations,” says Palmer.

One of the main reasons rabies continues to be so prevalent in many parts of the world is challenges in getting the vaccinations to the most vulnerable people in resource-poor countries, says Palmer. “In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where the death rates are the highest, there is no reliable system to get vaccinations to where they are needed most.”

Many areas in rural Africa also do not have electricity; currently the vaccine needs to be stored at cold temperatures. And governments in many countries have historically put their resources into treating the disease with postexposure prophylaxis, a series of post-bite inoculations that must be started within the first 24 hours after a person is bitten by a rabid dog. If it is not administered in time and symptoms appear, the disease is always fatal. Because of the narrow window for treatment and the treatment’s high cost, post-exposure prophylaxis has not been effective in reducing deaths in resource-poor countries.

Research in Tanzania and other countries has now convinced the World Health Organization and national governing bodies that canine vaccination can be effectively used for global elimination, says Palmer. Vaccinations are also a much more cost effective option.

“The direct costs of post-exposure prophylaxis are 20 times higher than the amount spent on dog vaccination in affected countries,” says Palmer. “Even the cost of the vaccine is too much for many families.”

Together with global partners* the Allen School is already making a difference. Each year the vaccination team visits 180 villages in seven districts adjacent to the Serengeti National Park. Each day they vaccinate an average of 300 dogs. The result is that the vaccination zone—a cordon sanitaire—is now rabies free. The Allen School is confident that this rabies-free vaccination zone is an illustrative model for other parts of subSaharan Africa and south Asia.

“We have all the tools needed to eliminate rabies, we only need to deploy them,” says Palmer. “One major challenge is creating a reliable vaccine bank that would provide a consistent and affordable vaccine supply for countries to draw on and then replenish.”

Palmer has set a goal to raise $10 million to develop a reliable vaccine bank and improved distribution in high-risk area of Africa and Asia. Through partnerships with veterinary clinics and others committed to eliminating rabies, Palmer knows they can make an even bigger difference for communities and for the people who live with rabies as a reality every day.

“We have all the tools needed to eliminate rabies, we only need to deploy them.” —Guy Palmer WSU Senior Director of Global Health

“When I am in Africa working with our vaccination team, I see firsthand how important vaccination is to dog owners,” says Palmer. “Although they may not be able to pay in cash for the vaccine, they will walk many miles just to be able have their dog vaccinated.”

The Allen School has partners around the world including the Global Alliance for Rabies Control as an umbrella organization, the World Health Organization, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Our research in Tanzania is in cooperation with the Serengeti Health Initiative and the University of Glasgow.


Learn how you can help support the WSU Rabies Vaccination Program at



Faculty News | Spring 2015

William Sischo has been awarded a USDA-NIFA grant of $2.2 million for his project “Integrating Biology, Psychology, and Ecology to Mitigate Antibiotic Resistance in Food Animal Production Systems.” Drs. Douglas Call, Margaret Davis and Dale Moore are co-PIs on the project.

Douglas Call was named a fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Student and Fellow News | Spring 2015

Congratulations to graduate student Jackie Stone (advisor Hector Aguilar-Carreno) and Carolynn Fitterer (’16 DVM; advisor Gretchen Kaufman) who were awarded first and second place respectively for their posters at the 16th annual College of Veterinary Medicine Student Research Symposium on October 30.

Matt Sammons (’16 DVM) won first place in the 2014 Zoobiquity Conference student poster competition held November 1 in Seattle. Sammons’s poster was titled “One House-One Health approach to childhood growth and development: Identifying and resetting high-risk household gut microbiomes.”  He is a student in the Global Animal Health Professional Certificate Program and is mentored by Dr. Douglas Call.

Tracking Animal Disease to Improve Human Health

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

Victoria Olsen-Mikitowicz (’15 DVM) spent one month in Kenya working on several research projects including the population-based animal syndromic surveillance project, or PBASS. She plans to pursue a career in veterinary public health, education, and research in global animal health.

In rural Kenyan villages where few families have electricity or indoor plumbing, a surprising technology helps researchers study the health of animals and people: the cell phone.

Families who are part of the population-based animal syndromic surveillance project, or PBASS, use their cell phones to call a veterinarian toll free when an animal is sick. More than 70 percent of families participating in the survey have cell phones; only three percent are connected to the electricity grid.

“Mobile telephony is actually very well developed in most of Africa, especially in Kenya,” says Thumbi Mwangi, clinical assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, who has been collecting data since the survey began in February 2013.

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Faculty News | Fall 2014

Dr. Michelle (Shelley) McGuire, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, is a new affiliate faculty member in the Allen School. Shelley’s expertise is related to human nutrition during the lifecycle, especially during lactation and infancy.

Dr. Mohammad Obaidat, professor of food safety and zoonotic diseases at Jordan University of Science and Technology, visited Dr. Margaret Davis’s lab to learn techniques for genotyping bacterial pathogens. Dr. Obaidat is conducting field studies in Jordan to assess antimicrobial resistance in dairy cattle and small ruminants.

Student and Fellow News | Fall 2014

Congratulations to doctoral students Quan Liu and Jackie Stone who were each awarded a one-year, $24,780 Poncin Scholarship to study the Nipah virus.  Liu and Stone work with Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreno, assistant professor in the Allen School.

Paul Ervin, a graduate student in the School of Economic Sciences, was awarded a $15,000 grant with the United Nations Development Programme.  Ervin, who works with Dr. Jon Yoder, will research the economics consequences of dengue fever in Paraguay.

Faculty News | Summer 2014

Drs. Terry McElwain, Felix Lankester, Barb Martin, and Tim Baszler are working on a project funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop a disease surveillance system plan in Tanzania. Improved surveillance can reduce the spread of emerging and existing diseases, benefitting animal and human health.

Allen School faculty members Drs. Jon Yoder and Felix Lankester will collaborate on a project in northern Tanzania led by Dr. Sarah Cleaveland of the University of Glasgow, titled “Social, Economic and Environmental Drivers of Zoonoses.” Researchers will collect information from peri-urban and pastoral communities that have very different livestock systems. The project will assess how zoonotic diseases (such as brucellosis, Q fever and Rift valley fever that affect human and livestock health), impact people’s health, livelihoods, and economic well-being. The goals of the project are to identify ways to reduce the transmission of zoonotic pathogens from livestock to people and to improve the well-being of household and communities.

Representing the Allen School, Dr. Guy Palmer attended the Queen’s Anniversary Prize dinner at Guildhall in February at the request of the principal of the University of Glasgow, Professor Anton Muscatelli. The University of Glasgow was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the achievements of researchers at its Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health. The Allen School is collaborating on several projects with the Boyd Orr Centre addressing the health of ecosystems, humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.

Student and Fellow News | Summer 2014

Congratulations to Drs. Tomasina Lucia (’14 DVM), Aja Senestraro (’14 DVM), Shawna Wedde (’14 DVM), and Brittany Beavis (’14 DVM), who all earned a DVM from the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine and a professional certificate in global animal health from the WSU Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

Kudos to Carson Sakamoto (’17 DVM), Matt Sammons (’16 DVM), and Claire Jackson (’17 DVM) who have each been awarded a WSU College of Veterinary Medicine Summer 2014 Research Fellowship! The funds will be used to support their work with Allen School faculty members. Carson will be conducting research with Dr. Jean Celli on Brucella, a bacteria found in cattle that causes the zoonotic disease brucellosis. Matt will be traveling to Kenya to work with Dr. Douglas Call on antimicrobial resistance. Claire will work with Dr. Margaret Davis on E. coli bacterial resistance.

Congratulations to Matt Sammons (’16 DVM) and Carolynn Fitterer (’16 DVM) who were accepted to the Global Animal Health Pathway program! Matt will be conducting research on antimicrobial resistance with Dr. Douglas Call and Carolynn will be working with Dr. Gretchen Kaufman to evaluate the effect of goat health on community health in Indonesia.

Zoobiquity Conference

The Allen School and the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine are two of the sponsors for this year’s Zoobiquity Conference to be held Saturday, November 1, in Seattle. The theme is “Environment and Health,” with a focus on health issues that people and animals share.  WSU faculty will be some of the featured speakers at this event. The afternoon includes walking rounds at the Woodland Park Zoo with presentations at various exhibits including seasonal affective disorder and geriatrics (gorillas), obesity (bears), BRCA gene breast cancer (jaguars), and zoonotic TB and uterine leiomyoma (elephants).  Zoobiquity stems from the idea that although animals and people get many of the same diseases, physicians and veterinarians don’t often consult with one another.  It calls for an interdisciplinary approach to health issues shared across species.

Antibiotic Resistance: What the WSU Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health is doing to help solve this global health crisis

by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ‘04

Dr. Douglas Call (left) with Beatus Lyimo, a graduate student at the Nelson Mandela African Institution for Science and Technology. They are working in the lab at the Mandela Institution where Dr. Call and his team process samples to analyze for antibiotic resistance.

Bacteria can do something remarkable. They can share genes. So, if one bacterium is resistant to a particular antibiotic, such as tetracycline, it can pass that resistant gene to another bacterium. That bacterium will become resistant and can pass its resistant gene to another bacterium. And they can keep the resistance for a long time, which allows antibiotic resistance to spread widely.

This highly adaptable behavior, while good for bacterial survival, poses a major risk to human health. Treatments for common infections are becoming ineffective in some parts of the world according to a recent report by the World Health Organization. Globally there are already very high rates of antibiotic resistance for urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

Standard recommendations to reduce antibiotic resistance include using antibiotics only when medically necessary. The FDA recently released guidelines to discontinue the use of antibiotics in food animals who are not showing signs of illness. U.S. prescription guidelines for people are created to help ensure antibiotics are only prescribed when someone has a bacterial infection, not a viral illness. Both will have some impact. But according to researchers at the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, it is unlikely to do enough.

“Treatment guidelines in the United States alone are not sufficient to solve the problem,” said Guy Palmer, director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.

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