Organisations And Individuals Urged To Join In Fight Against Rabies
An appeal has been made to individuals, corporate bodies and organizations, to support and sponsor the fight to eradicate rabies in the country.
The government has also been urged to come to the aid of stake-holders, and help speed the fight against the disease, which though deadly, is easily preventable.
Whilst rabies is mainly transmitted through dog bites, the virus could be found in other animals and humans as well, which puts everyone at risk of contracting the disease.
Dr. Kwadwo Obeng-Wiredu, Deputy Director, Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Veterinary Service (GVS), in an interview with the Ghana News Agency to commemorate World Rabies Day, said it was unfortunate that the annual nation-wide free vaccination of dogs, which was a state-sponsored event, had stopped.
He said before that exercise came to an end in the late 1990s; it contributed greatly to rabies eradication in Ghana, because dogs which had not been vaccinated were seized and confined by state authorities, once they did not have the rabies vaccination identification tag.
Dr. Obeng-Wiredu who is also in charge of the La Dadekoopon Assembly division of the GVS, said since the annual free nation-wide anti-rabies vaccination exercise came to an end in 1998, it had been handed over to the country's districts, which could also not sustain it effectively because of lack of adequate funding.
Touching on rabies, he said whilst the disease could be 100 percent fatal, it was also 100 percent easily preventable.
Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said it was basically a must for all dog owners to vaccinate their puppies and dogs against rabies annually, adding that people, who kept other animals such as sheep and goat, also had to ensure that the animals were properly confined and prevented from getting bitten by dogs and other animals, which could be rabid.
"There are often stray dogs which do not have owners lurking around refuse sites and similar places, where roaming ruminants also go, which makes it very possible for pigs or goat to get infected and also infect people, especially their human owners", he explained.
Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said there had been cases where ruminants suddenly showed strange symptoms, and were later diagnosed to have been infected with rabies.
He advised that when bitten by a dog, a person should thoroughly wash the bruised skin with soap and immediately report to a qualified veterinarian saying, "the nature of the bite may require immediate medical attention, but please make sure to contact us as soon as possible."
Not all dog bites would necessarily result in rabies because all dogs do not have rabies; Dr.Obeng- Wiredu said but cautioned that it was important to be thorough with the treatment of every animal bite, especially those from dogs, bearing in mind that the bite could transmit rabies.
He advised that when a dog bites a person, under no circumstance should that dog be killed, because it was important to send the dog to a veterinarian for it to be determined whether it was rabid or not, which was crucial in determining the treatment of the bite victim.
Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said the Ghana Veterinary Service was collaborating with other stake holders to intensify the eradication of rabies.
He said it was wrong for anyone to think that the fight against rabies was an issue for dog owners alone, adding, "even if your dog is vaccinated, you could be attacked by a rabid dog outside your home'.
Dr. Obeng-Wiredu said in the same way, a rabid dog could just appear from nowhere, attack a person and quickly run away, which put everyone at risk, and advised the public to contribute in every way possible to ensure that there were no rabid dogs in the country.
The New Standard Encyclopedia, describes rabies as an acute viral infection and fatal disease of the central nervous system.
Whilst all mammals could get infected by the disease, the rabies virus is typically found in wolves, dogs and cats.
Because the virus is found in the saliva of its victims, it is transmitted to humans, typically through the bite of an infected animal, because the animal's saliva would enter the blood stream of the victim.
The incubation period, prior to the onset of the disease which is characterised by unpleasant symptoms, ranges from ten days to one year, but an average of a few weeks to about two months is typical.
Restlessness, a feel of terror and excitement alternating with the victim calming down, convulsing and finding it extremely difficult to drink, are typical symptoms after the incubation period of the virus.
Once the virus reaches the nervous system, it is typically impossible to stop it, and death is almost always certain for the victim.
World Rabies Day is marked on September 28 every year, and raises awareness on the disease and measures that could be taken to eradicate it.
The World Health Organisation reports that tens of thousands of people, mostly from Africa and Asia, die every year from rabies.
By Robert Anane GNA