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Eradicating Scourge Of Rabies In Nigeria

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Eradicating Scourge Of Rabies In Nigeri

By: Prof Kabir Ayobami Raheem
College of Veterinary Medicine
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike

Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease that affects the central nervous system of all warm-blooded animals including humans.

The disease is generally fatal and incurable once the infected animal shows clinical manifestations such as inability to eat and drink, a phenomenon called ‘hydrophobia’ due to paralysis of the jaw, excessive salivation, hyperactivity in furious rabies and paralytic syndrome in dumb rabies, with progression towards coma and finally death.

In dog, change in temperament is one obvious sign that may be used to suspect a case of rabies.

An aggressive dog before rabies infection may become dull and inactive while a dull dog turns out to be very aggressive after infection.

Rabies is of public health importance because of its transmission from infected animals to humans.

It is transmitted through the saliva of an infected (rabid) animal and infection in human occurs mostly through bite wounds, or infected saliva entering an open cut or wound or mucous membrane such as those in the mouth, nose and eyes.

The deposited virus travels from the point of bite in the victim to the spinal nerves and progressively to the brain.

Therefore, the incubation period of rabies depend on the nearness of the point of bite to the brain.

It may take a period of less than two weeks or as long as 3 months in other.

Bats and some wild life such as racoon serve as reservoir hosts for rabies disease and hence are potential transmitters of the disease to human.

The rabies transmission is also possible from infected mother to child through breast milk and from infected organ donor to recipient.

*How does one avoid being bitten by a dog?.

Adhering to the adage, let the sleeping dogs lie makes a lot of sense.

A dog should not be disturbed unnecessarily while feasting on bone or food.

In all circumstances, a stray dog should be avoided by systematically stepping aside to allow its passage.

By default, afford them the right of way.

It is not proper to enter a compound in whether a dog is kept therein or not, without the consent of the residents.

On entering one in which there is a dog, it is better to do so in the presence of the owner who knows the temperament of the dog and can control it if the need arises.

Running away or getting flared up on mere sighting of a dog prone the victim to a bite.

To summon the courage and confidence to stay calm is the best thing to do when confronted by a domesticated dog.

Keeping a dog in a compound with more than one family should be avoided, and if inevitable, has to be done with a lot of restrictions and cautions.

In actual fact, it becomes the responsibility of the dog’s owner to get his or her dog to familiarize with other residents in the compound to avoid constituting a nuisance to other residents while having the dog chained whenever others are out into the common areas of the compound.

*What should one do when bitten by a dog/cat?*

First and foremost, the point of bite should be washed as soon as possible, thoroughly and severally with soap preferably under a running tap, followed by ethanol.

If point of bite bleeds, the flow of blood should not be impaired and the more the blood that could be made to come out of the wound immediately after the bite, the better since such has the tendency of eliminating the virus rather than the virus entering into the body.

This is necessary before thinking of stopping the bleeding.

The dog should be apprehended if it is possible without exposing others to another bite from the same dog.

A medical advice should be sought and the dog is referred to a veterinarian for further investigation.

The Veterinarian evaluates the circumstances of the bite, temperament and the vaccination status of the dog critically to advice appropriately on the next line of action.

Even a bite of a family member from a family dog needs to be treated the same way or even more carefully.

In most cases, it may be required to quarantine the dog for a certain period of time (minimum of two weeks or thereabout).

In certain condition, especially with stray dog where the dog cannot be easily captured and subsequently quarantined without exposure to more bites, killing the dog and extracting the brain to demonstrate the presence of Negri bodies as confirmatory test for rabies becomes inevitable.

In most cases, an immediate post–exposure prophylaxis treatment of the victim that includes wound treatment and vaccination may be instituted because once the rabies symptoms are manifested in the victim, no treatment can salvage the condition.

Avoiding dog bite is far better than the horror of psychological rabies the victim goes through even when the dog has no rabies especially with history of no or expired vaccination.

This year theme is One health, Zero deaths was meant to emphasize the strength in synergy among all associated professionals under One Health in bringing an end to human death associated with rabies disease.

As the Nigeria Veterinarians joined their colleagues across the globe on Thursday September 28, 2023 in celebrating this year World Rabies Day, a series of programmes that included workshops and seminars, talks and advocacy on radio and television as well as free anti-rabies vaccination for dogs across many parts of the country were lined up and successfully executed to commemorate this year event.

There is a need by all – veterinarians, medical and paramedical practitioners, dog owners, government at the three tiers of governance, non-governmental organizations, allied workers in dog industry and the media as well as the general public to support this clarion campaign to end rabies.

Enacting and upward review, implementation and enforcement of laws dealing with pet care and stray dogs should be revisited and giving prior attention.

Edited By Grace Namiji

Written by: Salihu Tejumola

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