According to the 2019 World Health Organisation (WHO) data, rabies is a fatal infectious viral disease. The data indicates that in up to 99 per cent of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabbies virus transmission. It is spread to people through bites or scratches, usually via saliva from an infected stray dog.
Incidence of rabies and how it is transmitted
The president of Uganda Veterinary Association, Dr Sylvia Baluka says rabbies is a disease to worry about world over because once someone or an animal contracts it, the fatality rate is 100 per cent.
Apart from humans getting infected, other animals such as livestock can get clinical rabies from dogs and cats and any wild canines through bites. Dogs and cats get the disease mainly from the wild canines, bats and cats that act as reservoirs. Domestic dogs and cats have been highly associated with the introduction of the disease to livestock and humans leading to higher number of cases in Africa.
Dr Baluka notes that there are two types of rabbies namely furious rabbies which exhibit signs of excitable behaviour and the animals and humans tend to keep aloof from society. Humans tend to bark like dogs. This shortly leads to paralytic rabies which is less dramatic and it takes longer course than the furious one.
Infected persons and animal muscles eventually become paralysed and people tend to reach coma state so fast resulting in death. It takes an infected person or animal 10 days to die from the date of contracting the virus.
Prevention of the disease
There is readily available vaccination for the disease and people can access the vaccine called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for dogs and other animals at Entebbe Grade A Hospital. District veterinary offices across the country have dozes of the vaccine especially for animals and health facilities including private hospitals have vaccines for humans. Both animals and humans must receive three dozes.
Dog owners are encouraged to take their dogs for mass vaccination which is done every year across the country free of charge and once the dog receives three dozes it will be safe from rabbies.
Human rabies vaccines exist for pre-exposure immunisation. These are recommended for people in certain high-risk occupations such as laboratory workers handling live rabbies and rabbies-related viruses; and people such as animal disease control staff and wildlife rangers whose professional activities might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, or other mammals that may be infected.
Pre-exposure immunisation is also recommended for travellers to rabies-affected, remote areas who plan to spend a lot of time outdoors involved in activities such as caving or mountain-climbing.
Immunisation should also be considered for children living in, or visiting, remote and high risk areas. As they play with animals, they may be bitten and might sometimes not report the bites.
It is also advisable to keep clean by not littering leftover food especially bones and meat which may attract stray, unvaccinated dogs.
Every community is advised to have good garbage system with covered gabbage collection containers.
Veterinary doctors recommend control of dog population through family planning where females are injected with birth hormone medication to control birth and the males are castrated.
1. Rabies is only transmitted by animal bites. This is false. Rabies is transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected animal.
2. Bites are the most common mode of rabies transmission but the virus can be transmitted when saliva enters any open wound or mucus membrane (such as the mouth, nose, or eye). As a result, licks or scratches from rabid animals can also transmit the virus
2. That a bite from an animal will be obvious to humans. Human rabies infections are also associated with bats. Due to their small size, bat bites or scratches may not be noticeable or leave no obvious puncture wounds. (Compiled from www.iamat.org)