Vaccinate dogs to prevent rabies in humans: Mutorwa

16 Mar 2015 12:40pm
WINDHOEK, 16 MAR (NAMPA) – Dog owners should vaccinate their pets regularly to prevent humans, especially children from contracting rabies.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), John Mutorwa made this call during the launch of the 'Rabies Control Strategy' on Monday.
The purpose of the strategy document is to provide a framework for managing rabies in Namibia. Its objectives are to address constraints and weaknesses in order to minimise the impact of rabies in Namibia in humans and animals in a sustainable way.
The strategy is also expected to assist in fostering collaboration and co-operation among key stakeholders including the general public.
“Innocently and ignorantly unaware of the dangerous of such dog bites, children are not always in a position to inform adults that they have been bitten by a dog. Remember that children are innocent friends to pets and is obviously often at the most greatest risk from rabies,”Mutorwa warned.
Rabies is one of the oldest diseases in the world, and is the result of exposure to a virus usually transmitted to humans through the saliva of an infected dog.
The virus travels to the brain following the peripheral nerves. Once the rabies reaches the central nervous system and symptoms begin to show, the infection is effectively untreatable and usually fatal within days.
Rabies also kill herds of cattle resulting in farmers losing millions of N.dollars of income.
About 18 Namibians, mostly children are dying from rabies per year after they were bitten by infected dogs.
Fortunately, rabies in humans is 100 per cent preventable through prompt and appropriate medical care, according to Mutorwa.
The minister noted that rabies in humans can be eliminated by ensuring that adequate animal vaccination, control, regular education awareness programmes are provided and conducted.
However, State Veterinarian in the MAWF's Directorate of Veterinary Services, Dr Alec Bishi raised concern that vaccination coverage country-wide is only 30 to 40 per cent.
Bishi noted that awareness campaigns on rabies are not sufficient enough, while there are about 120 000 dogs in Namibia.
“There is a need for monthly rabies campaigns, as dogs are vaccinated only as from three months old. Continuous prevention programmes of rabies are needed,” he noted.
At the same occasion, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Albertina Shilongo, commended government for launching the strategy, which she said will improve current interventions.
“Now we can go to every village, do house-to-house vaccinations to improve on the coverage of the disease, and also to educate our people about the dangers of rabies,” she stressed.
Statistics provided by the ministry indicated that in the year 2014 about 273 cases were reported, while 42 cases were reported in 2013.
The year 2012 recordedv567 cases; 2011 about 819 cases; compared to 294 cases in 2010.