Dogs are man’s best friend. But what happens when your loyal pet turns against you? There is just one simple answer ”“End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate”
Come with me as I take you to my experience with this disease.
Sparky was my nephew’s dog. I grew fond of the dog and was excited about my newly formed friendship. However, as I tried petting it, it snarled, bore its fangs and bit my index finger before I could pull my hand away. They explained that it did not appreciate any petting while eating. I had learned that painfully. Hell has no fury than an eating dog! This is called food aggression.
I hurriedly washed my finger in running water with soap and cleaned the wound with the surgical spirit that was in the house. I asked them about the dog’s vaccination against rabies but was met with blank stares. It is a domestic dog, but its vaccination history was in question. They neither had any vaccination certificates or recall of when they were vaccinated last. It was assumed that since it had not been in contact with any strays or wild dogs, it did not have the virus. They smiled and said it had been dewormed recently. This did not comfort me in any way.
What is This Disease?
Rabies is a disease caused by the rabies virus. It affects both human beings and animals and is transmitted through a bite by an infected animal. The disease is preventable by vaccinating dogs and man against it. However, if one is bitten, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you receive the rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
‘Get the injection” I was urged by those around me after my accident. Some decided to lighten the tense moment by making fun of the accident by growling and snapping like a fierce dog. Another joked that I should have used the hand-sanitizer to clean the bite-wound. I decided to check on information regarding vaccination and educate them on it.
In Kenya, it is reported that 2000 people die annually from rabies even though the disease is preventable. Vaccines for dogs cost about 100-200 shillings. The vaccine for humans costs 1500 shillings in Kenyan hospitals. The PEP cost is very high though. In 2014, the then health cabinet secretary James Macharia said that it costs about Sh 17000 in Kenya to treat a person after a dog bite. Despite these treatments being life-saving, our public hospitals report regular shortages of the human vaccine and PEP.
The rabies PEP regimen comprises a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and a rabies vaccine. The immune globulin is given on the day of exposure, and on days 3, 7 and 14 to ensure maximum effectiveness. The rabies vaccine is also given to persons who had not been previously immunized against the disease. WHO recommends that patients presenting for rabies PEP treatment even months after having been bitten should be treated as if the contact had recently occurred.
World rabies day 2020
September 28th 2020 was the world rabies day 2020. The theme for this year’s celebration is “End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate”. The world rabies day has been observed since 2007. It is observed to raise awareness about rabies and to promote prevention strategies against the fatal disease.
Kenya launched a national strategy for controlling and eliminating human rabies in 2014. The aim was to make Kenya free of dog-mediated human rabies by 2030. The strategy is to vaccinate 70% of all dogs each year and provide prompt PEP vaccines to people bitten by suspected rabid dogs. Additionally, the strategy aims to provide public education and awareness campaigns. According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, vaccinating 70% of the dogs in the population would prevent transmission and eventually eliminate the disease.
Once a rabid dog bites you, the virus travels to the spinal cord and brain before it can cause any signs and symptoms. The period between the disease onset varies from weeks to months. Once the clinical signs and symptoms appear, the disease inevitably ends in death. Its symptoms start in a flu-like manner – general weakness, fever or headache. It progresses to difficulty in swallowing, excessive salivation, anxiety, confusion, abnormal behaviour, hallucinations, fear of water (hydrophobia), insomnia and reduced level of consciousness. It ends in a coma and subsequently death.
The “End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate” theme promotes the need to ensure our pets are vaccinated. Dogs should be vaccinated at 14 weeks of age, then at one year of age. They should then be vaccinated annually in subsequent years. Cats should be vaccinated too to prevent them from contracting rabies.
I have shared my rabies story. I hope this helps you understand the importance of vaccinating your dog.