Animal rights crusader calls for mass rabies jab for dogs
Rebecca Mutiso @rebeccamutheu1
An animal rights organisation wants the government to carry out a mass vaccination programme for dogs to eliminate rabies.
The World Animal Protection believes that canine vaccination holds the key to controlling rabies as opposed to culling dog population.
It is proposing that governments vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the national dog population on a yearly basis for three to five years to break the rabies transmission barrier.
The dog population in Africa is estimated to be around 100 million, majority of the animals are allowed to roam freely by their owners or are stray dogs.
Dr Emily Mudoga, Animals in Communities Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection said rabies has the highest fatality rate than any disease, including Covid-19 and causes endless suffering to the animal and the families affected.
“Without swift treatment, this disease is fatal, yet unlike many diseases, it is preventable with the right course of action.
Killing dogs does not stop the disease, mass dog vaccination in the only proven solution,” she said during a zoom meeting to mark the day.
The organisation estimates that over 10 million dogs are killed annually due to rabies or fear of the disease, which translates to 170 dogs for every one human death from rabies.
A report released by the organisation yesterday dubbed All eyes on dogs showed it costs Sh434 ($4) to vaccinate a dog against rabies compared to over Sh11,000 ($108) to treat a person who has been bitten by a rabid animal.
“Rabies predominately affects poor, remote and vulnerable populations for whom post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and dog culling are traditionally favoured.
But these methods are expensive and ineffective at eliminating the disease compared to mass dog vaccination.
It’s time for the world to change its approach and focus on vaccinating dogs,” the report said.
According to the report Latin America countries have taken the mass vaccination approach, leading to a 95 per cent drop in cases of rabies in humans and 98 per cent in dogs.
The report estimates that 59,000 people die every year from rabies with the disease leaving a Sh933 billion ($8.6 billion) dent in the global economy annually.
Nearly half of people bitten by a rabid animal are children under 15 years.
However, the report shows that it would cost approximately Sh683 billion ($6.3 billion) to eliminate the disease in 10 years.
“This year’s World Rabies Day has come at a time when we are all too familiar with the global threat of zoonotic diseases, as the world grapples with Covid-19.
The importance of focusing on animal health, human health and environmental health cannot be overstated.
Rabies is entirely preventable and can be eliminated if we focus on dogs,” she said.
The organisation is calling for community awareness camapigns on rabies, noting that a global insight survey they conducted showed that fewer than four in 10 people know what to do in the event a dog bites them.
A pilot study conducted by the organisation in Makueni revealed that the community must be fully engaged in efforts to fight rabies and shed light on the need to incorporate teachers and pupils as change agents.
“Governments should allocate adequate resources to facilitate implementation of rabies elimination projects and train all health works on all aspects of rabies management in both humans and dogs,” Mudoga said.
Meanwhile, the organisation has raised concern over the welfare of pets in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Cases of dogs and cats testing positive and even dying has brought on new questions on the human-pet role in the greater public health agenda.
Due to lack of information globally thousands of pets have been either killed or abandoned,” Mudoga said.