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News Archive

24 June 2019

Merck Animal Health Reaches Milestone in Supporting Elimination of Rabies in High-Risk Regions over the Last 20 Years

MADISON, NJ, June 24, 2019 – Today, Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, is proud to announce a milestone accomplishment in the fight against rabies with the donation of in total three million doses of the company’s NOBIVAC® rabies vaccine. For more than 20 years, the company has made a commitment to work to eliminate rabies by supporting research on rabies control, mass canine vaccination in high-risk regions of the world where much-needed vaccination is often inaccessible and education initiatives to raise awareness in high-risk regions, such as India and Malawi.

Rabies, an acute viral encephalitis identified by the World Health Organization as a neglected tropical disease, is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases on earth, with a 99.9 percent fatality rate. Known as a zoonotic disease, rabies is transmitted from animals to humans, and 99 percent of human cases are the result of rabid dog bites. In the at-risk parts of Africa and India and other regions, mass annual canine vaccination, reaching at least 70 percent of dogs, has been a proven, effective way to eliminate the disease in both animals and humans.

This impact on both humans and animals influenced Merck Animal Health to make its commitment to rabies elimination. Merck Animal Health joined efforts early in the research phase of this project with Dr. Sarah Cleaveland, founder, Afya Project and professor of Comparative Epidemiology, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow. 

“Our research has had substantial impact on generating robust data on rabies transmission and canine distemper epidemiology that have been used to provide the evidence base for similar, larger scale elimination programs in other parts of the world. Prevention and elimination of canine rabies is entirely feasible, and with veterinarians and medical colleagues working together, there is a chance to make a difference,” said Dr. Cleaveland.

A research project involving Merck Animal Health in 1996 demonstrated that the transmission of rabies could be controlled and eventually eliminated by vaccinating domestic dogs in the Serengeti, protecting wildlife, domestic animals and local villagers.

“That initial research has since developed and led to more than 65 publications that focus predominantly on rabies control and distemper,” said Dr. David Sutton, Global Technical Director, Merck Animal Health. “And it also has saved the lives of numerous dogs and people. We are proud of our longstanding support of this research and the accessibility and delivery of our vaccine, both a testament to our commitment to the Science of Healthier Animals.”

In conjunction with the extensive research studies conducted in this disease area and increased access to vaccination, education is also a significant part of the overall solution to raise awareness about rabies preventative health care that is often low in endemic areas. This is particularly important as more than one-third of deaths from rabies are in children less than 15 years old. That is why Merck Animal Health also supports various education initiatives to help educate and activate communities to prevent, control and eliminate the devastating impact of rabies.

“Each year, 59,000 people die from rabies – a completely preventable disease,” said Ingrid Deuzeman, Global Marketing Director, Merck Animal Health. “As a company, we are deeply entrenched in the fight to prevent these needless deaths through our legacy of partnership with organizations, such as Mission Rabies and Rabies Free Africa, and veterinarians, to support education and prevention through robust canine vaccination programs. Merck Animal Health made the decision more than 20 years ago to provide access to a solution – to provide vaccine to parts of the world where it is most needed, but otherwise not available and in doing so to also support research efforts with the aim of finding out how best to eliminate this devastating disease.  Our goal was and continues to be to help make rabies a thing of the past everywhere in the world.”

For more information on our company’s commitment to eliminating rabies, please visit http://www.afya.org/.


About Merck Animal Health

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Through its commitment to the Science of Healthier Animals®, Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest ranges of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services as well as an extensive suite of digitally connected identification, traceability and monitoring products. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals and the people who care for them. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit www.merck-animal-health.com or connect with us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter at @MerckAH.