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Local veterinarian’s efforts in Uganda recognized

November 10, 2018

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — As Americans, we might not think about rabies too often, but in other parts of the world, the viral disease which strikes animals remains an ever-present threat.

One local veterinarian recently participated in The Big Fix Uganda, a volunteer effort to improve the lives of animals and humans in Africa; the project has been honored with the 2018 World Rabies Day Award for Sub-Sahara Africa.

M.J. Wixson of Guardian Animal Medical Center made her first visit to Africa as part of The Big Fix Uganda from Sept. 23 to Oct. 10; she was in Africa during World Rabies Day, which was Sept. 28.

“Every year, there are hundreds of events reaching millions. Events range from nationwide media campaigns to local mass dog-vaccinations, puppet-shows for children and quiz nights for medical personnel,” Wixsom said, noting more than 200 events from 56 countries were registered for World Rabies Day 2018.

World Rabies Day, an initiative of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, is meant to promote global activism and awareness for rabies prevention, Wixsom said. The alliance aims to eliminate human deaths from rabies by the year 2030.

“The key to saving human lives is preventing canine rabies,” Wixsom said. “Canine vaccination prevents the disease in humans by stopping the disease at its source. Vaccinated dogs and cats provide a protective, immunity barrier between potentially rabid wild animals and people.”

In addition to spay/neuter clinics and education programs, Wixsom and volunteers with her on The Big Fix Uganda offered a vaccination clinic during which 737 dogs and cats were vaccinated.

“When The Big Fix began working in Gulu District in 2012, there were often suspected rabies cases,” Wixsom said. “Today, there are almost none reported and few of the dog bites are suspected rabid dogs.”

Wixsom said the trip haunts her.

“Uganda is one of the poorest of the poor countries and we went to the poorest part of the country,” she said. “Not only are they poor, but there has been decades of wars in this area. Everyone talks of bullets, abductions, beating and more.”

She said volunteers work long, hard days trying to accomplish a lot with a little, including training companion dogs and working with PTSD victims.

“I think a lot of times when we see poverty, we want to throw some money at it so it will go away,” Wixsom said. “I think that only trains people to get handouts.

“We did not give handouts, but we did give some hand-ups for some people who really need it.”

Despite the country’s poverty and violence, she said she would like to go back, but it’s sure if that will happen because of the two days travel to get to Uganda and the travel expense.

A committee of representatives from the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Organization for Animal Health, Center for Disease Control, MSD Animal Health and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control chose The Big Fix Uganda as the winner; the award of about $1,000 dollars will help the organization offer more vaccination clinics in other areas of Uganda.

Wixsom said the award will help save animal and human lives in Uganda.

“The award may provide credibility for future grants,” she said. “I know that it was well earned.”

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Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com

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