Since May 2020, Sri Lanka has reported cases of rabies in jackals, dogs, cattle and two human deaths in the Kalutara district in western part of Sri Lanka. Following a request made by the authorities in Sri Lanka, the OIE Regional Representation organised a technical consultation meeting on 10th November 2020 in which OIE experts from the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (OIE reference laboratory for rabies), Germany were invited to share their expertise in dealing with such wildlife rabies cases as well as introduce the oral rabies vaccines. Participants from Sri Lanka included representatives from the Public Health Veterinary Services, Department of Animal Production and Health, Department of Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Health, WHO Sri Lanka, University of Peradeniya and other key stakeholders.
A total of 37 participants attended the consultation meeting including participants from OIE RRAP, OIE SRR, FAO Regional office for Asia and the Pacific and WHO South East Asia Regional Office.
- An understanding of the current situation of rabies cases in animals including jackals in the affected area.
- An understanding of the control measures implemented by the authorities in Sri Lanka.
- An understanding of the farming practices and environmental factors in the affected area including information about ecology of jackals and other wildlife in the area.
- A good understanding about the historical perspectives, the concepts and principles, and European experiences in the use of oral rabies vaccines for elimination of wildlife rabies in Europe.
- A platform for discussion and networking between the participants for further follow up.
- Need to enhance dog rabies surveillance in the outbreak area as well as other parts of Sri Lanka. The use of rapid diagnostic kits (lateral flow assays) for rabies surveillance on the ground could be considered to mount rapid response. In the long run, it might be advisable to set up diagnostic capacity using direct fluorescent antibody tests in the provincial laboratories.
- Need to collect and send brain samples for laboratory confirmation at MRI Colombo and also refer for molecular phylogenetic studies to determine the virus strain.
- Step-up strategic dog vaccination at the wildlife-human habitat corridors to build up immunity (sort of immune barrier)
- Enhance multisectoral coordination amongst the key stakeholders in Sri Lanka to have coordinated and effective interventions.