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World Rabies Day: Stakeholders discuss synchronisation of approaches to eradicate disease

September 29, 2022

The Metropolitan Office of the Veterinary Services, with support from the Assembly, has held a forum to discuss the need to synchronise health approaches to eradicate rabies from the metropolis.

The forum brought together key stakeholders to discuss rabies and dog bite-related cases and the way forward.

It forms part of programmes for the sixth World Rabies Day, on the theme; “One Health, Zero Death” commemorated on September 28, annually.

Dr Joseph Abu, the Greater Regional Veterinary Officer, said the ‘one health strategy' approach was a call on public health, animal health, and environmental practitioners to work together towards eradicating zoonotic diseases, especially rabies.

“If all of us come together we will be able to do effective vaccination, if we can vaccinate at least 70 per cent of all dogs within our region then we can eradicate it,” he said.

He challenged all metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies to adopt the one health approach and strengthen their by-laws on dog ownership to ensure proper shelter, food, and medication for the animal.

Dr Abu said stray animals roamed and got into contact with wild animals, who were reservoirs of the rabies virus and they, in turn, affect other animals and humans.

There was, therefore, the need for the assemblies to strictly enforce the by-laws on roaming animals to curb rabies by 2030.

Dr Emmanuel Kwao Pecku, the Tema Metropolitan Vet Officer, giving an overview of rabies, said even though it was the number one zoonosis (transmitted from animals to humans), it was underreported.

Most cases happened in deprived communities where people might die from it without reporting to the health institutions, he said.

Dr Pecku said the hotspot for rabies in the world was Asia and Africa with 100 per cent fatality, hence the need for every dog bite case to be reported at the health facility and the vet office for the necessary action to save lives.

When the virus enters the body, it multiplies quickly and attacks the nerves, brain, and other nervous tissues as well as the salivary glands.

Transmission could also occur when the infected saliva of a dog or animal comes into contact with an open wound of a human.

Some of the clinical signs are sudden changes in behaviour and aggressiveness, among others.

Dr Pecku, who also has oversight duties on Tema West and Kpone-Katamanso municipalities, disclosed that within the past two years, 12 confirmed cases have been seen within his jurisdiction.

He noted that out of the 12, six; made up of five dogs and one goat cases were presented at the Tema Vet Clinic.

He encouraged dog owners to vaccinate their pets against the virus as rabies was quite dynamic and at the terminal stages, nothing could be done by clinicians to save the life of an infected person.

There is, therefore, the need to protect everyone by vaccinating the animals.

Meanwhile, one confirmed case of rabies from Kpone, involving a seven-year-old child, was reported this year at the Tema General Hospital.

Mr Edwin Afotey-Oddai, the Disease Control Officer, Tema Health Directorate, said the victim survived due to early action by the paediatrician who attended to the case.

While the number of reported dog bites at both private and public health facilities started declining in 2018, a sharp increase was seen in 2021 when 51 dog bites were seen.

He said, already, 39 bites have been documented as of the end of August 2022.

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