A free rabies vaccination campaign to inoculate Phnom Penh’s dogs against the deadly viral disease has launched in the capital, the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production (GDAHP) announced.

GDAHP said the free rabies vaccinations for dogs in Phnom Penh – being conducted in collaboration with Mission Rabies and Animal Rescue Cambodia, as well as other local partners – is to run until June 2.

“We are calling on all dog owners in Phnom Penh to protect their family, friends and communities by getting their dogs vaccinated against rabies,” GDAHP said in a social media post.

Mission Rabies said on May 19 that vaccinations would be staggered across districts in Phnom Penh following a set schedule, with information on when the campaign arrives in each area available on the organisation’s website.

According to Mission Rabies, vaccinating dogs against rabies is the least expensive method of preventing transmission of the deadly disease.

“In Cambodia, 85 per cent of all dogs are owned, so education is essential for successful rabies prevention,” said the UK-based non-profit organisation.

Education on rabies, preventing being bitten and treating wounds post-bite were effective tools for communities to use in protecting themselves against the deadly disease, it added.

Nuth Sambath, president of the Institute of Medicine, Biology and Agriculture at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said rabies is an infectious disease carried in the saliva of a number of animals including dogs, cats and rats.

He said the launch of the free rabies vaccination campaign for dogs across the capital was the most effective way of preventing human deaths from the disease.

“Vaccinating all dogs in Phnom Penh is the best way of protecting humans against rabies as it will prevent the city’s canine population from having rabies and infecting people through bites,” Sambath said.

If someone is bitten by a dog, they must immediately visit a specialist hospital to be vaccinated against getting rabies, he added.

According to Mission Rabies, Cambodia has one of the highest rates of death from rabies in the world, with 99 per cent of all mortalities in the Kingdom caused by dogs.

It said that while around 600,000 people are bitten by dogs in Cambodia every year, the majority do not go for treatment afterwards.

GDAHP, Mission Rabies, Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, Animal Rescue Cambodia and Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS) have been working together in Phnom Penh since 2020 to identify animals with rabies through cases of dogs biting humans.