On Thursday September 28th 2023, Uganda under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and Uganda Veterinary Association (UVA) joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Rabies Day in Gomba District on the 16th Celebrations of the World Rabies Day since its first observation in 2007 by the World Health Organization.
Dr. Kasibule Daniel, the President Uganda Veterinary Association called for recentralization of veterinary services so that there is one chain of command from the CVO (Chief veterinary Officer)
Dr. Kasibule said however much MAAIF has listened to some of their outcries by ensuring reinstating the Uganda Veterinary Board (UVB), Fast tracking on various outdated laws especially the most recent one, The Veterinary Practitioners Bill formerly the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act, creation of an independent veterinary regulatory authority under MAAIF, Increment on veterinary public servant’s salaries etc, a number of challenges still exist.
“MAAIF should develop and implement a national herd health program with meaningful funding for major epidemics vaccination calendar, Develop and disseminate SOPs for the major epidemics (FMD, African Swine Fever (ASF), New Castle Disease (NCD) and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), Reinstate the Veterinary scouts an equivalent of the VHTs and establish One health mandate with structures at all governance levels.” Dr. Kasibule said.
Dr. Nabadda Sitenda Madrine, the Uganda Veterinary Association Vice President said the 2023 theme “ALL FOR 1, ONE HEALTH FOR ALL” highlights the need of intersectoral and multidisciplinary approach from human, animal and environmental experts in ensuring that the Global Alliance for rabies Control target of zero rabies by 2030 is achieved.
“This theme is very befitting as it is in a time when cross cutting issues including laws and policies in the livestock sector are under serious reviews and considerations because of their unbefitting status,” Nabadda said.
The State Minister Of Animal Industry , Rt. Maj. Bright Rwamirama in his press release to Commemorate The World Rabies Day said Rabies is a neglected tropical disease and yet very fatal and has caused significant economic losses to the country through reduced productivity and pre-mature deaths.
“Uganda spends more than 7 billion Uganda shillings each year to purchase anti-rabies treatment for humans and more than 1 billion shillings annually for procuring rabies vaccines for animals.” the minister said
In Uganda, On average, a total of 13,009 suspected rabies cases in humans are recorded annually through the Health Management System of the Ministry of Health and the incident rate of 42.4 -56.7 per 100,000 populations.
A total of 975 suspected cases is recorded annually in animals through passive surveillance at the National Animal Disease Diagnostics and Epidemiology Centre. On average, 32 people and 130 animals die of rabies annually and the number could be bigger but the reporting levels are still low.
Rabies is widespread throughout the entire country, with certain districts reporting a higher number of cases. The hotspot districts by region include:
East: Tororo, Busia, Iganga, Bugiri, Namutumba, Buikwe, Serere, Soroti, Kaliro, Buyende, Mbale, Kumi, Jinja, Namisindwa, Manafwa, Namayingo
Central: Masaka, Mukono, Kalangala, Butambala, Mityana, Lwengo, Kampala, Wakiso, Gomba, Luweero, Mpigi
West: Isingiro, Kyenjojo, Kasese, Rakai, Rubirizi, Mbarara, Kabale, Rubanda, Lyantonde, Ntoroko, Bundibujjo, Kagadi, Kiryandongo, Ntungamo, Kabarole, Bunyangabo
North: Maracha, Alebtong, Adjumani, Apac, Arua, Nwoya, Gulu, Yumbe, Nebbi, pader, Koboko, oyam, Lira, Moyo, Kitgum, Omoro, Amur, Madi-okollo, Moroto, Oyam, Amudat, Napak, Kotido, Kween, Nabilatuk, Terego, Zombo.
The Government of Uganda developed the National Rabies Elimination Strategy (2022-2030) which will guide the country in the control efforts against rabies and eventual elimination by 2030. The strategy is premised on the following pillars;
• Mass vaccination of animals especially dogs and cats, and humans at risk.
• Vaccination of veterinary and public health professionals at risk.
• Mass awareness creation among different stakeholders.
• Enhancing rabies surveillance for both animal and public health and creating a database that can guide decisions on rabies control.
• Advocacy to ensure the commitment of resources to this noble cause of ending rabies by 2030.
Activities to commemorate the World Rabies Day 2023 included; Free mass vaccination of dogs and cats, Community education through radio and television talk shows both at national and local levels, Dissemination of information through print and social media, Spaying and castration of dogs and cats as a method of managing their populations, School outreach activities – sensitization of pupils through skits and factsheets. The children are usually at the highest risk of being bitten by dogs and Community service engagement for veterinary students from Makerere University.
Other Important Information on Rabies
Rabies is a deadly viral disease affecting both humans and animals and continues to pose a big threat. 99% of human rabies cases can be attributed to bites from infected dogs, with children being particularly vulnerable due to their frequent interaction with these animals.
Rabies remains a death sentence for both unvaccinated animals and humans. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 50,000 rabies-related deaths occur annually mostly in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The victim bitten by an infected dog usually shows signs within 1-3 months after exposure, becomes paralyzed, and dies within a mere 7-10 days.
Information to dog owners on how to prevent dog bites.
• Teach the children not to disturb, beat or play with unknown dogs.
• Report strange dogs in the community to the veterinary officers in your locality.
• Provide food and shelter for your dogs and cats so that they do not roam in the community looking for food and end up attacking people or their animals.
• Develop and adhere a lifetime training program for your dog and allow it a chance to interact with all categories of people in conducive environments.
• Discourage training dogs through violent, physical, or aggressive means.
• Encourage rewards, positive reinforcement, and treats.
• Make an effort to vaccinate your dog against rabies and other vaccine-preventable diseases and keep the vaccination certificates safe for future reference.
• Encourage neighbours to manage their dogs responsibly – keep only numbers they can feed, vaccinate, treat and house.
What to do when bitten by a dog
• Immediately wash the wound with a lot of clean (drinkable) water and soap for 10-15 minutes.
• After the above wash, if 70% alcohol is accessible, use it also to clean the wound thoroughly.
• Rush to the nearest health facility for further treatment. Explain to the medical health worker the circumstances that led to the bite.
• Report the case to the nearest local veterinary professional and local leader in your community. Also explain to the veterinary officer the circumstances that led to the bite.
• Make sure you complete all the treatment recommended by the medical health workers.
The general public is encouraged to be vigilant and cooperate in the control of rabies by doing the following;
• Presenting dogs and cats for vaccination
• Do not let cats and dogs loiter
• Proper disposal of food refuse
• Get help to remove stray animals
• Contribute to population control by presenting cats and dogs for spaying and castration.
By Maurice Peter Matovu
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