Sickly dogs raise 'false' fears of Ebola infections in Swakop

30 Oct 2014 11:10am
By Paulus Shiku
SWAKOPMUND, 30 OCT (NAMPA) – A pack of seven dogs carrying mange disease have been roaming the streets of the DRC informal settlement in Swakopmund, raising fears that the dogs might infect people with Ebola.
Mange is an inflammatory skin disease in dogs caused by tiny parasitic mites, often resulting in bald spots, scabbing, sores, intense itching and frantic scratching for the canines.
So far, only seven dogs with mange disease have been spotted in the DRC area, but residents said there are many more dogs with the same sickness.
Even the children playing in the streets are fearful of the sickly dogs, saying they might have the dreaded Ebola virus, which has claimed nearly 5,000 lives in Africa this year.
“Shoot and kill the sick dogs. We are scared they will give us Ebola,” a young girl told this reporter on Thursday.
An adult female resident who was also interviewed there said the sick dogs must be treated or killed, otherwise they will infect the children and other healthy dogs.
Approached for comment, the chairperson of the National Health Emergency Management Committee in Namibia, Dr Jack Vries told Nampa that there is no Ebola in Namibia.
Therefore, the children should not be scared that dogs could have Ebola.
There is also no known case of Ebola having spread from dogs to humans, he stressed.
In a media statement issued on 17 October this year, the Senior Media Relations Specialist at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Michael San Filippo also stated that there are no cases of dogs getting sick from Ebola, or passing the virus to humans.
Dr Ron DeHaven, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AVMA, also said there have been no reports of dogs or cats getting sick from Ebola, or of pets passing the virus to people or other animals.
His statement was meant to answer worldwide questions and fears on what should be done with the dogs of people who died of Ebola, as such dogs could be spreading Ebola.
Although demodectic mange in dogs is not contagious to humans, the same cannot be said for sarcoptic mange, which is highly contagious and can even affect other animals like cats, pigs, horses as well as humans.
Stanley Ganaseb, the owner of three of the sickly dogs in Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement, said he has tried to treat the dogs with engine oil, but this has not worked at all.
He told this agency that he really wants his dogs to get help so that they can become healthy again.
“I spoke to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and they said they will come treat them.
I am still waiting, as it has been a long time now,” Ganaseb stated.
Approached for comment on this, an official of the SPCA in Swakopmund - who preferred anonymity - confirmed that the disease affecting the dogs is indeed mange disease.
She said they are aware of the situation in the DRC settlement, and have made some interventions already.
The SPCA visits the DRC settlement every Saturday to treat the sick dogs, and they feed the hungry ones every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“The treatment is mostly in the form of dipping, and the feeding takes place at the Fire Brigade’s office in the DRC settlement.
These services are free, and residents should just take their dogs there,” she noted.
She furthermore advised dog owners to keep their pets clean, and to also clean and disinfect their houses to keep the disease-causing parasites at bay.
“We really want to help the animals live a healthy and happy life. The owners must also meet us halfway by keeping their dogs clean and well-fed.
I know a lot of people in DRC have no income, but we must try to take care of our animals. It is not good that such animals will end up being put down,” said the SPCA official.
The mange disease situation has improved slightly since they started the treatment and feeding of dogs, as a lot of them have now recovered.
“It takes a lot of effort and time - about three weeks of treatment - before the dog gets better.
So, my message to the owners is that they must just bring their dogs for help on the days stated,” she stressed.