Organisations and individuals urged to join in fight against rabies

By Robert Anane GNA

Accra, Oct 2, GNA – An appeal has been made to
individuals, corporate bodies and organizations, to support and sponsor the
fight to eradicate rabies in the country.

The government has also been urged to come to
the aid of stake-holders, and help speed the fight against the disease, which
though deadly, is easily preventable.

Whilst rabies is mainly transmitted through
dog bites, the virus could be found in other animals and humans as well, which
puts everyone at risk of contracting the disease.

Dr. Kwadwo Obeng-Wiredu, Deputy Director,
Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Veterinary Service (GVS), in an
interview with the Ghana News Agency to commemorate World Rabies Day, said it
was unfortunate that the annual nation-wide free vaccination of dogs, which was
a state-sponsored event, had stopped.

He said before that exercise came to an end in
the late 1990s; it contributed greatly to rabies eradication in Ghana, because
dogs which had not been vaccinated were seized and confined by state
authorities, once they did not have the rabies vaccination identification tag.

Dr. Obeng-Wiredu who is also in charge of the
La Dadekoopon Assembly division of the GVS, said since the annual free
nation-wide anti-rabies vaccination exercise came to an end in 1998, it had
been handed over to the country’s districts, which could also not sustain it
effectively because of lack of adequate funding.

Touching on rabies, he said whilst the disease
could be 100 percent fatal, it was also 100 percent easily preventable.

Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said it was basically a must
for all dog owners to vaccinate their puppies and dogs against rabies annually,
adding that people, who kept other animals such as sheep and goat, also had to
ensure that the animals were properly confined and prevented from getting
bitten by dogs and other animals, which could be rabid.

“There are often stray dogs which do not
have owners lurking around refuse sites and similar places, where roaming
ruminants also go, which makes it very possible for pigs or goat to get infected
and also infect people, especially their human owners”, he explained.

Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said there had been cases
where ruminants suddenly showed strange symptoms, and were later diagnosed to
have been infected with rabies.

He advised that when bitten by a dog, a person
should thoroughly wash the bruised skin with soap and immediately report to a
qualified veterinarian saying, “the nature of the bite may require
immediate medical attention, but please make sure to contact us as soon as
possible.”

Not all dog bites would necessarily result in
rabies because all dogs do not have rabies; Dr.Obeng- Wiredu said but cautioned
that it was important to be thorough with the treatment of every animal bite,
especially those from dogs, bearing in mind that the bite could transmit
rabies.

He advised that when a dog bites a person,
under no circumstance should that dog be killed, because it was important to
send the dog to a veterinarian for it to be determined whether it was rabid or
not, which was crucial in determining the treatment of the bite victim.

 

Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said the Ghana Veterinary
Service was collaborating with other stake holders to intensify the eradication
of rabies.

He said it was wrong for anyone to think that
the fight against rabies was an issue for dog owners alone, adding, “even
if your dog is vaccinated, you could be attacked by a rabid dog outside your
home”.

Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said in the same way, a rabid
dog could just appear from nowhere, attack a person and quickly run away, which
put everyone at risk, and advised the public to contribute in every way
possible to ensure that there were no rabid dogs in the country.

The New Standard Encyclopedia, describes
rabies as an acute viral infection and fatal disease of the central nervous
system.

Whilst all mammals could get infected by the
disease, the rabies virus is typically found in wolves, dogs and cats.

Because the virus is found in the saliva of
its victims, it is transmitted to humans, typically through the bite of an
infected animal, because the animal’s saliva would enter the blood stream of the
victim.

The incubation period, prior to the onset of
the disease which is characterised by unpleasant symptoms, ranges from ten days
to one year, but an average of a few weeks to about two months is typical.

Restlessness, a feel of terror and excitement
alternating with the victim calming down, convulsing and finding it extremely
difficult to drink, are typical symptoms after the incubation period of the
virus.

Once the virus reaches the nervous system, it
is typically impossible to stop it, and death is almost always certain for the
victim.

World Rabies Day is marked on September 28
every year, and raises awareness on the disease and measures that could be
taken to eradicate it.

The World Health Organisation reports that
tens of thousands of people, mostly from Africa and Asia, die every year from
rabies.

GNA

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