Merck Animal Health, Afya Project and Mission Rabies: Working Toward a World Free of Rabies

MADISON, NJ, September 28, 2015 – In recognition of World Rabies Day, Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada) is proud to announce its continued support of the Afya Project and Mission Rabies, two organizations that are working towards the elimination of the disease in some of the world’s most at-risk regions.

Every year, an estimated 59,000 people die from rabiesi,with 40 percent of those deaths occurring in children under the age of fifteen.ii Although human rabies is also preventable through vaccination, poor access to hospitals and the expense of treatments mean that many cases result in death. According to the World Health Organization, the majority of rabies deaths occur in Africa and Asia, and most cases are spread from dogs.ii As a result, widespread vaccination of dogs is an effective method for eliminating the disease.ii

For over 15 years, Merck Animal Health has supported the Afya Project by donating canine rabies vaccines for use in the Serengeti region of Tanzania, and by providing the program with tools and resources. Starting in 2013, Merck Animal Health extended that support to Mission Rabies in India.

To date, Merck Animal Health has donated more than 1 million doses of NOBIVAC® Rabies vaccine to the programs. In more than 20 participating countries, Merck Animal Health matches the use of NOBIVAC vaccines in pet clinics with donations of vaccine to the Serengeti Project and Mission Rabies.

“Because rabies is a preventable disease, Merck Animal Health strongly believes that it can and should be eliminated, in every country,” said Dr. David Sutton, Technical Director, Merck Animal Health. “Merck Animal Health is proud to support the Afya Project and Mission Rabies and work towards meeting this goal in the areas where the disease has the most devastating impact.”

Saving Lives in the Serengeti
Founded in 1997, the Afya Project has prevented thousands of deaths in the Serengeti through the widespread vaccination of domestic dogs. Since the start of the program, the incidence of human rabies, rabies in dogs and rabid dog bites are at an all-time low.iii Each year, over 600 dog rabies cases have been prevented and 23 human lives saved.i The effective control of rabies through dog vaccination has also had benefits for wildlife, including endangered African wild dogs, which have become re-established in the Serengeti National Park for the first time since the population disappeared as a result of rabies outbreaks in the early 1990s.

Understanding the importance of providing vaccinations to other at-risk areas, the Afya Project is now focused on expanding its service area. Recently, the program has extended to Kenya, Bangalore and the Pune region of India.

“The work we are doing is not only making an immediate difference in the Serengeti and other areas, but it also gives us important data on how rabies spreads,” said Professor Sarah Cleaveland, founder, Afya Project. “This increased understanding of the disease will be critical for eradicating rabies worldwide. We are grateful for our partnership with Merck Animal Health on this important and life-saving program.”

Eliminating Rabies in India
Since 2013, Mission Rabies has set a goal to vaccinate dogs across rabies hotspots in India, where over a third of all human rabies deaths occur.iv Using a fast-paced team of veterinarians and volunteers, Mission Rabies has so far vaccinated more than 167,000 dogs, trained 73 veterinarians, and educated more than 212,000 children about the risk of rabies. Based on the program’s success in India, Mission Rabies is now expanding its offering to Malawi in Africa.

“Widespread canine vaccinations are making a tremendous difference in India,” said Luke Gamble, founder, Mission Rabies. “We hope that rabies will be eliminated worldwide by 2030, and the resources we receive from Merck Animal Health will be invaluable for accomplishing that goal.”

Join the Fight Against Rabies
In participating countries, every time pet owners and veterinarians choose Merck Animal Health’s NOBIVAC® vaccine, the company will match with a donation of rabies vaccine to the Afya Project and Mission Rabies. This year, Merck Animal Health plans to donate 200,000 doses.

“Eliminating rabies is an attainable goal, but ongoing collaboration is essential,” said Ingrid Deuzeman, Global Marketing Director, Merck Animal Health. “We will continue in our fight against rabies, and encourage others to take action against this deadly disease.”

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Please see Prescribing Information for NOBIVAC® Vaccines at

About Merck Animal Health
Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, 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 range of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals. 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 or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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i Hampson K et al. Estimating the Global Burden of Endemic Canine Rabies. PLoS: Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2015 Apr: 9(5): e0003786. 

ii World Health Organization. Rabies Fact Sheet. Accessed June 17, 2015 via

iii Kaare M, Lembo T, Hampson K, et al. Rabies control in rural Africa: evaluating strategies for effective domestic dog vaccination. Vaccine. 2009;27(1):152–160.ivWorld Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. “India’s ongoing war against rabies.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Volume 87, Number 12, December 2009, 885-964. Accessed June 17, 2015 via