Heterogeneity in dog population characteristics contributes to chronic under-vaccination against rabies in Guatemala

Heterogeneity in dog population characteristics contributes to chronic under-vaccination against rabies in Guatemala

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ABSTRACT

Guatemala has held dog rabies mass vaccination campaigns countrywide since 1984, yet the virus remains endemic. To eliminate dog-mediated human rabies, dog vaccination coverage must reach at least 70%. The Guatemala rabies program uses a 5:1 human:dog ratio (HDR) to estimate the vaccination coverage; however, this method may not accurately reflect the heterogeneity of dog ownership practices in Guatemalan communities. We conducted 16 field-based dog population estimates in urban, semi-urban and rural areas of Guatemala to determine HDR and evaluate the standard 5:1. Our study-derived HDR estimates varied from 1.7–11.4:1 (average 4.0:1), being higher in densely populated sites and lowest in rural communities. The community-to-community heterogeneity observed in dog populations could explain the persistence of rabies in certain communities. To date, this is the most extensive dog-population evaluation conducted in Guatemala, and can be used to inform future rabies vaccination campaigns needed to meet the global 2030 rabies elimination targets.

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