Monday June 16 2014

Eliminate stray dogs, vaccinate pets to prevent rabies

By Dr Benedicto Byamukama

I draw attention to the story of a 13-year-old boy from Kiruhura District who was attacked by a wild animal on April 28 and died of rabies at Mbarara hospital.
Every case involving attack and bite by an animal is supposed to be handled as a suspected rabies case.

Any person, pet, wild animals that encounters a potentially rabid animal is at risk. The most peculiar sign in rabid animals is usually change of behaviour and temperament.

Wild animals may lose fear of humans and get more aggressive.
The duration of the clinical signs in humans after a bite from a rabid animal (incubation period) ranges from two to eight weeks. Death is almost inevitable once clinical signs develop.

An attack followed by a bite from any vertebrate animal should be handled as serious since the disease affects all vertebrate animals. This should be followed by installation of a treatment regime (post exposure prophylaxis) only in humans but not in animals since this can increase exposure risk to humans.

High risk groups like the veterinarians, wildlife specialist, military etc, need to get pre-exposure immunisation against rabies. Unvaccinated pets once bitten by suspected rabid animals should mercifully be killed.

If well implemented, 99 per cent of rabies transmission can be prevented by controlling transmission. It is, therefore, advisable that all pet owners vaccinate their pets and authorities enforce elimination of all stray dogs to reduce risk of transmission, exposure and prevalence.
Dr Benedicto Byamukama,