Rabies is a viral disease that affects dogs and transmits to humans as a result of their mingling with the pets. The illness is commonly known as dogs’ madness. Affected dogs behave abnormally and often get mental disorder. They usually become violent and attack other dogs and humans.
It is worthy of note that rabies is a deadly disease that cannot be cured when a dog or man is infected and develop symptoms. However, there are vaccines to prevent dogs from contracting it and for treatment of persons that are bitten by rabid dogs.
Though people cannot get infected with rabies just like that because it is not a human illness, one can be infected when bitten by a rabid dog or other animals such as fox or bat. But it is usually the dogs that spread the killer disease to the people due to the interaction that is common between dogs and humans who keep them as pets or for hunting.
According to an epidemiologist in the Gombe State Ministry of Health, Dr Nuhu Bele, the symptoms of rabies can appear within 14 days to six months cautioning that when the symptoms are felt by an infected person, there is 100 per cent assurance that they will die.
“Once the symptoms appear, it is 100 per cent sure that the person dies,” he stated. He however said that the infected person will heal if treated in good time before the symptoms manifest.
The epidemiologist advised people bitten by dogs to use a lot of water to wash the bitten part of the body immediately the incident occurred and then rushed to hospital for attention.
He said the state’s Public Health Emergency Operation Centre has experts that screen and attend to affected persons even as he urged dog owners affected to rush them to clinics for vaccines.
The expert noted that if a dog bites someone on body parts that are close to their brains, the virus transmits faster to the brain and causes the symptoms adding that once that happens, they will die within a short time. He said it was because of that, that abundant water should be applied on a part bitten instantly to wash the virus and thereafter rush the person to hospital for further treatment.
Nuhu emphasised that if treated in good time, people bitten by rabid dogs can survive as vaccines that will give their bodies immunity against the rabies are available at hospitals and veterinary clinics.
It will be recalled that since three years ago, there was outbreak of rabies in Gombe State where no fewer than four people in Dukku local government area of the state lost their lives after being bitten by infected dogs.
This was just as over 200 cases of the rabies were recorded with many people sustaining injuries from dog bites. Against this background, the federal ministry of agriculture in collaboration with states’ ministries of agriculture, USAID Breakthrough Action Nigeria and Food and Agriculture Organisation organised nationwide massive vaccination of dogs against the rabies.
The exercise was flagged off in Dukku local government during the commemoration of world 2022 rabies day because of its vulnerability. The vaccination which was launched by minister of state for Agriculture, Mustapha Baba Shehuri was aimed at containing the spread of the illness. About 2.6 million dogs are targeted to be vaccinated against the disease across the nation this year.
The chiefveterinary officer of Nigeria, Dr Maimuna Abdullahi Habib in an interview with journalists in the state said the federal government in partnership with the development partners provided not less than 30, 000 doses of the vaccine for each state of the federation to immunise dogs free of charge. She assured that the vaccination exercise would continue annually.
While noting that rabies is preventable by vaccination, the chief veterinary officer however revealed that the disease is incurable when its symptoms already appear on the affected persons. She stated that aside the dogs vaccines, 45 doses of the human vaccines were provided to the state to cater for infected persons.
On the symptoms of rabies, Maimuna stated that infected dogs can get mad and be spitting a lot of saliva advising dog owners who notice such with their dogs to rush them to veterinary clinics even as she also asked people bitten to go to hospital immediately for treatment.
Maimuna also scolded children to avoid looking for dogs trouble in order to prevent themselves from being bitten and contracting the illness.
“Children see dogs lying down quietly and they go and look for their trouble. So, we are telling them they should not do it,” she warned.
The chief veterinary officer said they have developed national strategic plan for the control of rabies in Nigeria adding that the document outlines the strategies to be adopted in the prevention, control and eventual elimination of the rabies in the country.
According to her, they were in Gombe because they had a report of four deaths in Dukku local government asking dogs owners to bring their dogs for vaccination at veterinary clinics nationwide.
The minister of state for agriculture Mustapha Baba Shehuri explained that rabies remains a global threat pointing out that it is responsible for the death of approximately 59, 000 people in the world every year.
“In Nigeria, rabies is responsible for the death of large number of persons annually. Most of these deaths occur amongst the rural dwellers. Generally, ignorance, poverty and lack of access to timely medical care largely contribute to the spread and impact of the disease in the country “. He said.
Shehuri added that the theme of this year’s commemoration is tagged “One Health, Zero Death” and the target is to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies globally by the year 2030.
He also advised those who own dogs to bring them for the vaccination so that the disease would not catch them and get spread to the people.
Also, a hunter in the area Musa Abdullahi Sambo alias ‘Mai Dawa’ whose dog benefited from the free vaccine expressed appreciation to the federal government and partners for the gesture saying the vaccines would give protection to their animals.
He also lauded his fellow hunters for their cooperation towards the exercise revealing that over 200 dogs were brought by them for immunistion in the area.