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Photo sparks effort to rein in rabies in Africa

Iowa Lutheran begins foundation to reduce the spread of the disease in Kenya

As veterinarian Brian Darrow recalls how one photo — and prayer — led him to begin a vaccination and health-care ministry that took him to Kenya, he is reminded of what his wife told him: "You're not driving the bus."

The photo showed the grave of 7-year-old Sharon from Kenya, who died of rabies. Her father ran track at Iowa State University, Ames, and Darrow saw the photo at a team reunion four years ago.

Soon after the reunion, Darrow, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Anamosa, Iowa, learned that if he switched vaccination suppliers, Merck Animal Health would send additional rabies vaccinations to Africa. So he switched.

Veterinarian Brian Darrow vaccinates
Veterinarian Brian Darrow vaccinates animals in Kenya. Each day Darrow and a team would go to a different area in Kenya and within a few hours hundreds of people would arrive with dogs to be vaccinated.

"A couple of years later I was in a searching mode," Darrow said. "I wondered what I could do with my spiritual life that would make an impact, something that could use my veterinary skill but also have an impact on humans."

As Darrow searched and prayed, he received an unexpected call from a public relations firm that discovered he had switched to Merck, and he was asked about his connection to Africa. He took that call as a sign and began researching rabies. The disturbing information he found was that almost all deaths related to rabies were in Africa, and that by vaccinating animals that number would be dramatically reduced.


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