Where rabies is not a disease. Bridging healthworlds to improve mutual understanding and prevention of rabies

Nadal, D. , Hampson, K. , Lembo, T. , Rodrigues, R., Vanak, A. T. and Cleaveland, S. (2022) Where rabies is not a disease. Bridging healthworlds to improve mutual understanding and prevention of rabies. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 9, 867266. (doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.867266) (PMID:35782552) (PMCID:PMC9240625)

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Deeply embedded in local social, cultural, and religious settings, traditional healing is part of dog bite and rabies management in many rabies endemic countries. Faith healing, which usually encompasses a more holistic approach to health including physical, mental and social dimensions, is rare in the context of rabies. In Gujarat, Western India, the Hindu goddess Hadkai Mata is worshiped by low-caste communities as the Mother of Rabies in the event of a dog bite to a person or their livestock. This belief might influence people's attitudes and behaviors toward rabies prevention but has never been investigated. Through 31 in-depth interviews with healers and staff of Hadkai Mata temples, this paper explores the system of knowledge around dog and human rabies that is built and shared in these places of worship and healing. Qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed looking for convergences and divergences with the recently launched National Action Plan for dog-mediated Rabies Elimination. Results suggest that while the etiology of human rabies as a social illness is usually explained as the goddess's wish to correct misbehaving people and restore positive interpersonal relations, there is some appreciation for the biological processes of infection that lead to rabies as a physical disease. Hadkai Mata is believed to cure rabies if her patients undergo the necessary process of moral growth. Although conventional post-exposure prophylaxis is not opposed per se, it is often delayed by patients who seek traditional treatment first. Some reluctance was expressed toward mass dog vaccination because it is seen as an interference in how the goddess controls dogs, by enraging them—hence infecting them with rabies—and sending them to bite wrongdoers. Addressing these cultural perceptions is likely to be critical in achieving effective control of dog rabies in this region. The study highlights the value of multidisciplinary approaches in the control and elimination of rabies, as well as other zoonoses. This includes the importance of understanding different culturally- and religiously- mediated ways in which humans relate to animals; and looking for points of convergence and mutual understanding, upon which context-tailored, linguistically-accurate, locally acceptable, feasible and effective strategies can be designed.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant (751267) to DN, a Wellcome Grant (207569/Z/17/Z) to KH, and a DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Grant (IA/CPHI/15/1/50 2028) to AV.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lembo, Dr Tiziana and Cleaveland, Professor Sarah and Hampson, Professor Katie and Nadal, Dr Deborah
Authors: Nadal, D., Hampson, K., Lembo, T., Rodrigues, R., Vanak, A. T., and Cleaveland, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Publisher:Frontiers Media
ISSN (Online):2297-1769
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 Nadal, Hampson, Lembo, Rodrigues, Vanak and Cleaveland
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science 9: 867266
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
301620The Science of Rabies EliminationKatie HampsonWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)207569/Z/17/ZInstitute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine