The lone, stray dog moved erratically, prowling across the lane and back. It was salivating, snarling and baring its teeth. It barked and growled. There was something wrong with this dog and neighbourhood children and residents were staying well away. The dog exhibited symptoms of rabies and posed a significant threat to the neighbourhood.
According to the Rabies Alliance at www.rabiesalliance.org, “Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or nervous system tissues of an infected mammal to another mammal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system and causes severe brain disease and ultimately, death. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can pass from other animals to humans. Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate.”
Rabies accounts for approximately 60,000 deaths every year around the world, according to the WHO. Over 95% of these deaths are in Africa and Asia, with the majority occurring from rabid dog bites.
Terence Scott, a microbiologist from South Africa who was in Sierra Leone to train veterinary staff, said, “Rabies is endemic to many countries in West Africa and I’d say Sierra Leone had an endemic problem with rabies.”
Dr. Gudush Jalloh is a veterinarian who runs the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society on Main Motor Road in Freetown. He’s famous among responsible dog owners and anyone associated with animals in Sierra Leone. Dr. Jalloh said, “We’ve not been able to confirm rabies cases in the past because we lacked the necessary tests and equipment. The hospitals will call me to consult on suspected rabies cases and dog bites but we have no confirmations.”
Terence Scott of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control was in Freetown to run a 3-day training session for veterinary staff at the Animal Welfare Society. He brought a Direct Rapid Immunochitochemical Test (DRIT) that detects antibodies that react to the rabies virus from brain cells of dogs suspected of having rabies. The laboratory test takes about an hour and can confirm the presence of rabies. “There’s enough chemicals in the kits to last about a year, depending on how many tests are run,” said Scott.
Dr. Jalloh, said, “We’ve not been able to confirm rabies, but now we can confirm cases and record our results, locally and with the Ministry of Health and to our international partners.” Dr. Jalloh, however, noted the need for a good quality microscope to help with the confirmations.
Because rabies is endemic to Sierra Leone, children and dogs are at risk. Paul Dangha, a volunteer with the Society, said, “A big part of what we do is to educate the public and dog owners about vaccinations and the symptoms of rabies.” He added, “Vaccinations are part of the solution to the endemic and encouraging responsible dog ownership is also very important.”
Dr. Jalloh added, “We always recommend, strongly, that dog owners vaccinate their animals against rabies. That’s what a responsible dog owner does. But, we have so many stray dogs that it’s hard to keep track of the suspected cases.”
Rabies prevention involves two main strategies: (i) dog vaccinations to interrupt virus transmission to humans; and (ii) human vaccination as a series of vaccine administrations before an exposure or following an exposure.
According to the WHO, “All bite wounds and scratches should be attended to as soon as possible after the exposure; thorough washing and flushing of the wound for approximately 15 minutes, with soap or detergent and large amounts of water, is required. Then, a series of rabies vaccine injections should be administered promptly. SD/3/2/18
Monday February 05, 2018.