MSF begins emergency intervention against rabies in DRC

Médecins Sans Frontières, an international medical humanitarian organization, announced a rabies intervention on Saturday in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo after individuals were bitten by rabid dogs.

The targeted response in the Lemera health zone in the South Kivu province is meant to vaccinate people bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid dog. The team will administer post-exposure rabies treatment as needed. Ten deaths were reported as a result of the incident and the emergency intervention aims to prevent further fatalities.

"Rabies adversely affects the poor and vulnerable whose deaths are rarely reported," Jantina Mandelkow, the leader of MSF's team in Lemera, said. "Not only are vaccines and immunoglobulin not readily available in the DRC, most Congolese people can't afford to pay for lifesaving post-exposure treatment, which costs around $250."

After exposure to rabies, treatment must be administered as quickly as possible to prevent the onset of symptoms and a painful death. If there is no treatment before severe symptoms begin, rabies is typically fatal.

Decades of instability and conflict in DRC prevented the implementation of measures to eliminate animal-to-human transmission of the rabies virus. The under-reporting of rabies prevents resources from being mobilized from the international community to stop the preventable disease.

"The current rabies situation now affecting humans in Lemera is exceptional and must be urgently addressed," Mandelkow said. "We're doing all we can but we urge others to recognize the severity of the situation and commit resources to its containment and resolution."