Dog ecology and barriers to canine rabies control in the Republic of Haiti, 2014-2015.
An estimated 59 000 persons die annually of infection with the rabies virus worldwide, and dog bites are responsible for 95% of these deaths. Haiti has the highest rate of animal and human rabies in the Western Hemisphere. This study describes the status of animal welfare, animal vaccination, human bite treatment, and canine morbidity and mortality in Haiti in order to identify barriers to rabies prevention and control. An epidemiologic survey was used for data collection among dog owners during government-sponsored vaccination clinics at fourteen randomly selected sites from July 2014 to April 2015. A total of 2005 surveys were collected and data were analysed using parametric methods. Over 50% of owned dogs were allowed to roam freely, a factor associated with rabies transmission. More than 80% of dog owners reported experiencing barriers to accessing rabies vaccination for their dogs. Nearly one-third of the dog population evaluated in this study died in the year preceding the survey (32%) and 18% of these deaths were clinically consistent with rabies. Dog bites were commonly reported, with more than 3% of the study population bitten within the year preceding the survey. The incidence of canine rabies in Haiti is high and is exacerbated by low access to veterinary care, free-roaming dog populations and substandard animal welfare practices. Programmes to better understand the dog ecology and development of methods to improve access to vaccines are needed. Rabies deaths are at historical lows in the Western Hemisphere, but Haiti and the remaining canine rabies endemic countries still present a significant challenge to the goal of rabies elimination in the region.