Monday, October 17, 2011

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Vaccination day in Paksapmai

The first day of rabies vaccination in the Laos VEVEP Rabies Campaign was busy and productive. Eight students from the Veterinary (paravet) Program at the National University of Laos accompanied four faculty and VWB veterinarian Anne Drew, to Ban Paksapmei. The three PAHWs – Primary Animal Health Workers – of the village met us at a corner store where a few villagers already waited with their dogs. Quickly stools and a table were set up to provide four stations. The first held the vaccination materials: muzzles and rope leashes, cooler with vaccine, needles and syringes, disposal containers for sharps and trash, and coloured neck markers for the vaccinated dogs. Then owners moved down a row providing recording and certificates, a short questionnaire on dog demographics and rabies awareness, and an information station where they received pamphlets in Lao and oral instruction. Emphasis was placed on what to do in the event of a dog bite and/or suspected rabies exposure: Wash the wound! Seek medical attention. Inform the authorities.

Lao dogs are rarely confined or leashed, but we had decided to require dogs be brought to a central location, rather than travelling house to house. This was due to time constraint – one day per village – and our feeling that given free vaccination, villagers could make the effort. Some misgiving as to whether many would show up was quickly dispelled with the first rush between 8:30 and 10. Dogs came following their owners freely or carried in arms. Litters of puppies arrived with families of young children carrying one apiece. Some dogs walked, reluctantly, on ropes and chains. A number arrived by motorcycle – either in the basket carrier (loose!), or carried by a passenger. One lady even drove with her fully-grown dog clamped between her knees. The occasional upscale family brought dogs by car, and one gentleman had a wire cage on a traditional wooden handcart.

Dogs were vaccinated by a PAHW, under Faculty supervision, while students manned the remaining stations, and I circulated as troubleshooter. Although the vaccine is labeled for dogs over three months, in a rabies-control vaccination campaign it is recommended to vaccinate all dogs; research in Tanzania has shown that young pups mount a strong immune response. I’m personally less comfortable vaccinating under 4 weeks, so we chose this age as cutoff in our public announcements, but vaccinated any presented.

An occasional dog escaped when attempts were made to muzzle it, and the team is learning to make sure panicky dogs are well secured before proceeding. Lao dogs, though unused to restraint, are well treated and generally good tempered, and no one was injured. The team shared a lunch of chicken soup, papaya salad and rice, before proceeding to the afternoon location. In all, 148 dogs and 6 cats were vaccinated. The Campaign will cover the remaining 10 project villages over the next 11 days, with a two day break for the Lao Boat Racing Festival, also the end of the three month Rains Retreat for Buddhist monks.

By Anne Drew

Friday, September 9, 2011

Preparing for World Rabies Day

This year Vets without Borders is launching a new rabies campaign in Laos. Many people and agencies who work with rabies recognise that despite being a fatal disease, it is often neglected by funding agencies and health programs. Yet the ASEAN (
Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Call for Action to eliminate rabies by 2020 is a promising backdrop. Rabies prevention is complex and is a perfect example of a 'One Health' problem which can be best addressed using 'Ecohealth' approaches.

Rabies is endemic in Laos and although there is no up to date surveillance data, a 2002 study in Vientiane showed that only 48% of sampled dogs had been vaccinated against rabies: recommended coverage to eliminate rabies from a population is at least 70%.

This October, the Laos VEVEP project, through the National University of Laos, will mobilise our 33 Primary Animal Health Workers to vaccinate dogs in their villages and reach maximum coverage. Dog vaccination is shown to be the cheapest and most effective way to prevent rabies. Its impact is even greater when combined with public education, responsible dog ownership, dog population management and access to human vaccine for bite victims. Long-term vet volunteer Anne Drew will be leading the team in October to help fight rabies in Laos, and cooperating with other agencies in the country. Let's make rabies history!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Livelihoods: poultry for income generation

(Photos by Anne Drew)

This summer the Laos VEVEP team, in response to farmers' requests, added a new livelihoods focus to the project in Laos. In addition to our regular support of Primary Animal Health Workers (
PAHWs), we have now worked closely with 42 families in 3 villages to provide training in poultry management, and distributed chicks as the start of a 'pass on' scheme. The project supports mix-breeds and aims to allow farmers to grow healthier and more productive chickens, thus gaining income from increased sales, as well as increased access to chicken meat as and when needed. Farmers have been keen to start good habits like vaccinating their chickens more regularly and ensuring good quality housing and feed. Through the ongoing support of the PAHWs we are developing a new project model to branch out to other villages next year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hellos and Goodbyes

This is an exciting time for VWB/VSF in Lao PDR. We have formed two new partnerships in Savannakhet Province. Savannakhet University (SKU) and the Eco Guide Unit (EGU) are hosting our first Student Volunteer Placements in Laos. Four veterinary students from the Atlantic Veterinary College, Prince Edward Island, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatchewan and Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Quebec are volunteering in Lao PDR for three months.

One project, in association with a PhD researcher in primate conservation, hopes to establish the presence of Silvered Leaf Monkeys (Trachypithecus germaini) in the Dong Phouvieng National Protected Area. The species is classified as globally endangered and the project will explore the related conservation and ecotourism implications of such findings.

Two other volunteers based at SKU will be helping to develop curriculum materials for a Bachelor degree program in Animal Science. With the majority of Lao people depending on subsistence agriculture, programs such as this help to build much needed capacity. These volunteers will also be helping with vaccination programmes and teaching English.

Sadly, we have recently said goodbye to Dr Anne Drew and her husband Thom who have just completed their second volunteer mission with the Village Ecohealth and Veterinary Extension Project in Xaythany District, Vientiane province, and their contributions have been invaluable. The couple has become part of the Nabong community and their absence is already being felt. A huge thank you to them for all of their hard work and dedication.

Part of Anne and Thom’s work included setting the groundwork for a poultry project and establishment of rural veterinary drug vendors. Updates on these activities to follow soon…

Friday, April 15, 2011

Learning in action with Aeroplan

(Photos L-R by Amanda Sital, Sheila Taylor, Anne Drew)

Capacity building is not only crucial for building skills and knowledge in hard-to-reach areas, but a vital aspect of global cooperation and learning. As part of Vets without Borders' Beyond Miles program, our project in Laos hosted a team of 4 Aeroplan employees to visit, learn, eat and sleep the Lao way.

Villagers in Thachampa graciously hosted a delicious lunch for the visitors, and we met PAHWs and participants from last year's Community Health Days to share their thoughts about what the project is doing for them and where they want to see it go next. The 'delegation', which included Anne and Thom, other VWB/VSF colleagues and guests, also visited the beautiful area of Dong Sakee Sacred Forest in Savannakhet province, southern Laos, as part of a reconnaissance journey for our upcoming student placement this summer. Overall we've learnt a lot more about the farmers with whom we work and experienced the wonderful generosity and welcome of our partner communities.

Thanks to the Aeroplan miles which our friends and members donate we are able to send vets like Anne Drew and our student volunteers to work with these communities in need. Can you help us by donating your air miles? Click here to find out more:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

mentoring news

Nearly two months into our stay at NUOL, our support and training work with the PAHWs (Primary Animal Health Workers) has taken shape well. The PAHWs are providing lots of interesting exchanges and useful feedback.

A village mentoring visit with the PAHWs is set up by one of the Animal Health lecturers at the University, who also provide some ambulatory services to the villages. A morning visit means we can ask the visit host – one of the PAHWs – to hold back his animals from grazing for us to do some practical work. Each village started with 3 PAHWs trained, but attrition and their other responsibilities means we usually have 2 present, occasionally 3.

Our team consists of me and Thom, Lampheuy – our coordinator and translator, an Animal Nutrition specialist, lecturer and PhD student – and one of the Animal Health lecturers, often Sisawat. Sitting outdoors with the group, I check record books and ask about cases they have seen, which leads us into case discussions. We review clinical signs, probable diagnoses, treatments and outcomes. The PAHWs are questioned about what specific support they need from the team. We then move on to practical work, using what ever animal is available to practice restraint and handling, physical exam and evaluation. I’ve introduced deworming of dogs, and we have also been discussing and sometimes applying flea treatment. Before leaving we have distributed 10m. ropes suitable for casting cows, and large gauge needles which may sometimes be useful in relieving bloat – an oft-cited killer of cows in the rainy season.

At some visits we have a sick animal to work with, always an excellent learning opportunity. This week in Douneane village we saw a cow 1 month fresh with a lame leg, which one PAHW had treated the 2 previous days. We were able to review case reporting (presenting signs, history, findings, treatment and rationale), restrain and examine her, discuss the probable diagnosis and the indicated treatments, estimate the weight of the cow, calculate drug dosages, and have each PAHW draw and administer one injection. We covered nursing care, ie the need for provision of water to an animal with restricted mobility, the effect on milk production and the well-being of the calf of withholding water. Our conclusions were that she had a normal temperature, thin body condition, and a hock injury which was improving. I also took a fecal sample to do a float back at the lab.

Yesterday in the lab I floated the sample in saturated sugar solution and demonstrated a moderately heavy load of GIN eggs (validating our deworming treatment of the previous day). I was working alone with this first sample to investigate what equipment was available, the condition of microscopes, etc., but on my way out of the lab I saw Sisawat and asked if he would like to see the slide. Sisawat and a vet student, Souksawat came with me, and we collected another veterinary program lecturer, Sitisai, along the way. Once she saw us in the lab, the lab supervisor also came in and took a look. When I left, Sitisai was taking a picture of the slide. This very simple technique should be readily transferable to the teaching program and provide a good rationale for treatment programs in the villages.