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Training Manual on Wildlife Diseases and Surveillance
In Zimbabwe, the principal source of infection for people is domestic dogs, but jackals
also are an important source of infection for people. There appear to be three different potential
reservoirs for rabies with respect to people in Zimbabwe:
Figure A – here, dogs are the only maintenance host but virus also is transmitted to
jackals and perhaps other wild carnivores. The jackals and the other wild carnivore populations
are not themselves able to maintain the virus but, by transmission of virus from dogs to other
wild carnivores and other wild carnivores to jackals, all are part of the reservoir of rabies for
people. .
Figure C - is the same as A, except that other wild carnivores do not play any role in the
reservoir of rabies for people.
Figure B - indicates that both dogs and jackals are maintenance hosts; each is able to
maintain rabies virus within their populations independently, and each is an independent source
of rabies for people.
Knowing which of these three possible depictions of the reservoir of rabies virus for
people really is true has very important implications for preventing rabies in people. If either A
or C is the true situation, vaccination of domestic dogs alone will control rabies infection in
people. If Figure B is correct, vaccination of domestic dogs will not completely prevent rabies in
people. An effective control programme would have to include control of rabies in jackals as well
as in domestic dogs.
A correct understanding of pathogen reservoirs often is central to management of
disease in the target population, especially for pathogens that occur in wild animals and can
affect people or domestic animals.
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