Vurra Sub County, Arua district in West Nile region has been earmarked as the national venue for the commemoration of this year’s national World rabies day. This is as the Sub County was named as one of the major hotspot for rabies in the region as a result of failure by the urban authorities to reign in on stray dogs. This year’s World rabies day, scheduled for September 18, will be commemorated under the theme, “Rabies: Facts, not Fear”, with the aim of creating awareness about rabies, a disease of dogs and other animals including cats and bats. According reports, close to 3 people have already succumbed to rabies and over 130 hospitalized recently with rabies in West Nile region. Several cases of the disease have also been reported in; Madi-Okollo, Zombo, Terego, Yumbe, Maracha districts and Arua City in the last two quarters of last financial year. Arua district principal veterinary officer, Dr Willy Nguma says the day comes timely. “People have neglected rabies and yet it has continued to gravely affect both dogs and humans. In Arua, we have Vurra and Logiri where the disease is so rampant. But also other places in West Nile like Dadamu, Manibe, Arua hill in Arua city, Kijomoro in Maracha district amongst other places in West Nile region. We need to continuously encourage local authorities to regularly keep an eye on these stray dogs because they are the ones causing trouble to people in the region”, he said. Adding: “As we commemorate this year’s World rabies day, we shall be freely vaccinate dogs, cats and we shall also vaccinate humans who are at high risk of acquiring the disease. Our major problem is that people are reluctant to bring their dogs for vaccination and yet we are sitting on a time bomb”, he said. Pariyo Joel, the LC3 chairperson Vurra Sub County the Sub County has been grappling with poor attitude among community members about the disease. “We are battling with people who do not pay courtesy to the cleanliness of their dogs. Besides people don’t also pay attention to rabies, a disease that has been rampant in this Sub County. But we also want to call upon people to confine their dogs in one place as we find solutions like vaccines to inoculate the dogs”, he said. Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite. Animals most likely to transmit rabies include bats, dogs, foxes, raccoons and skunks. In developing countries of Africa and Southeast Asia, stray dogs are the most likely to spread rabies to people. Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease nearly always causes death. For this reason, anyone who may have a risk of contracting rabies should receive rabies vaccinations for protection. It presents with among others; fever, headache and nausea, vomiting, agitation, anxiety, confusion, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, halucinations, and partial paralysis. The disease is preventable through; vaccination of pets, isolating and keeping bats out of homesteads.
Risk factors Factors that can increase the risk of rabies are; coming into contact with wild animals that have rabies, exploring caves where bats live. Rabies is present in all continents, except Antarctica, with over 95 percent of human deaths occurring in the Asia and Africa regions. Rabies is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations. Approximately 80 percent of human cases occur in rural areas. Although effective human vaccines and immunoglobulins exist for rabies, they are not readily available or accessible to those in need. Globally, rabies deaths are rarely reported and children between the ages of 5–14 years are frequent victims. Every year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccination. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually. Globally, the economic burden of dog-mediated rabies is estimated at US$ 8.6 billion per year.
COVER PHOTO: Over 3 people have so far succumbed to rabies in West Nile since the beginnig of the year. Courtesy photo.