Lincoln Park Zoo works to eradicate rabies in Africa

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Local donors have also helped.

"This struck me as a success story,” says Dr. Susan Sherman, a North Shore veterinarian and zoo board member whose family has helped to defray the costs. “It's rare in conservation that any organization is able to combine programs that benefit the humans living in an area and the animals. Usually, they are at odds.”

Now, large-scale rabies vaccination efforts focused on domestic dogs are under way in South Africa and elsewhere in Tanzania. There are programs in Chad, in India, in the Philippines.

Fighting rabies “is a fairly big wave around the world,” says Travis, now an epidemiology professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “This project, I think, is really one of the seminal case studies.”

The Gates Foundation, with a focus on “neglected diseases,” is funding some of this. A World Health Organization five-year plan “aims to halve the currently estimated number of human rabies deaths in endemic countries” in Southeast Asia by 2016.

A leader in the coordination is the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, a group that formed seven years ago because, Executive Director Deborah Briggs says, “everybody was saying other diseases that were causing fewer deaths were getting more attention than rabies. Instead of just scientists talking to scientists we decided to take our message to the streets.”

Since the inception in 2008 of a GARC-sponsored “World Rabies Day,” Sept. 28 annually, “we went from 140 people involved in rabies control to over 15,000,” Briggs says.

A subgroup, the Partners for Rabies Prevention, meets once or twice a year and includes researchers, health officials and pharmaceutical industry representatives. It publishes a “Blueprint for Rabies Control and Prevention.”

"We really think we can do it across the whole of Africa,” Cleaveland says. “There's no reason we can't.”

All of that is a long way from a tiny village in Tanzania where electricity is scarce and pavement nonexistent.

But people here have witnessed rabies' effects firsthand and know the value of controlling it.

It's why, once each year, they put leashes on their dogs and bring them in for their vaccination, and why they are willing to put up with foreigners asking them to relive terrible events.

At the Misozis, the second family attacked by the hyena in 2000, family members put out low stools and chunks of wood to form a circle for conversation next to the half-finished walls of a new building. A bicycle leans against a hut. Two very young girls, dressed in what look like pageant gowns, vie for the adults' attention.

The wounded older girls sit outside the main circle, quiet, their faces downcast. “I am still frightened when I hear hyenas,” says Nkwaya, 20.

But Magaja Misozi, the girls' mother, talks in sudden rushes as she describes the attack. She recalls screams and commotion coming from the direction of the Ginyebus' home.

Then the hyena was upon them. “It was biting everything,” she says. “The bed, the mattress, children, goats. ... A normal hyena just grabs the livestock and goes.”
Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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