Biologist calls for campaign to stop rabies

If the world could eradicate a disease so terrible that human victims often claw off their own skin, retch so violently they tear their throats, and finally go mad--should it? Evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson says yes, absolutely.

The disease Judson describes is rabies, and the way to eliminate it is, she says, by vaccinating domestic dogs. Though rabies is carried by bats, raccoons, skunks, and other animals, most humans are infected by dogs. Vaccination campaigns in Kenya, Tanzania, and Chad have been successful so far, perhaps because dog vaccines are cheap, only about $1.50 per animal.

Judson advocates a four- to five-year campaign to vaccinate dogs, eradicating the disease from man's best friend--and in that way, driving the number of human cases close to zero. But though each shot is inexpensive, millions of animals would need them, so the cost would be millions of dollars in each country--an estimated $6 million in Tanzania for instance. The big trick would be finding sympathetic governments to pay for it.

- read the op-ed piece in The New York Times