NewsCovering Colorado


Colorado veterinarian taking 12,000 rabies vaccines to Kenya to help battle protracted epidemic

Dr. Julie Kelly planning her 8th trip to Kenya
dr julie kelly.jpg
Posted at 2:59 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 16:59:14-04

DENVER -- In Dr. Julie Kelly’s Denver veterinary clinic, they’re working hard to keep dogs, cats and other small animals healthy.

“I just did a tooth extraction on a cat this morning,” Kelly said.

But Kelly’s work next month will extend far beyond this clinic.

“Everyone knows about rabies in Kenya,” Kelly said. “They know someone who has been infected.”

While the rest of the world continues to grapple with the global pandemic and COVID-19 variants, Kelly and her team are trying to manage an old, yet pesky disease.

For the eighth time in a decade, Kelly is packing up rabies vaccines and heading with a team to Kenya next week.

“What we’re working on is the rabies epidemic that they’ve been battling,” Kelly said.

Dogs and cats often get rabies from wild animals in neighboring Tsavo National Park.

“The dogs with rabies, they become vicious and they can attack humans,” Kelly said. “And most rabies cases are young children on their way to and from school.”

“There’s reason to fear,” said Katherine Baxter, operations manager for ANAW-USA, also known as the Africa Network for Animal Welfare. “These communities live on the border of Tsavo National Park which has a very wide array of wild things that are dangerous to humans.”

Kenyan’s line up by the hundreds with their dogs and cats when Dr. Kelly’s mobile clinic arrives.

“And typically – we try to orient the clinics around times where school’s not in session,” Kelly said. “Because it’s generally the kids who bring the pets to the clinics.”

Kenyan’s love their pets just as much as we do. By now – they know and trust Kelly and her team, which also puts collars on all the pets who get shots, so locals know they’ve been vaccinated.

“It’s a source of pride for many of the homes,” Kelly said. “They ask – ‘Can I have a collar so I can show my animal’s been vaccinated?’”

“Obviously – we can’t eliminate rabies that occurs in wildlife all together,” Baxter said. “But just trying to make sure the vectors that transmit rabies to humans are managed.”

The mission is a labor of love for a team planning its largest effort ever - with a goal of vaccinating 12,000 dogs and cats in three weeks.

“It’s a very serious disease and I think we take for granted all the preventative work that’s been done in the United States,” Baxter said.