Rabies cause about 99% fatalities -FAO
By Sasuk Taban
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has revealed that animal disease rabies caused about 99.5% fatalities.
But it said rabies is a preventable disease. Rabies is a viral, zoonotic disease that can affect most warm-blooded species. It is mostly transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or other contact with saliva of an infected animal. If it goes untreated in unvaccinated humans, rabies is almost always fatal after neurological signs and symptoms have developed.
An assessment reveals that many people in South Sudan do not know what rabies is, and even if they are aware of it, most live in remote locations which do not have adequate and well equipped health facilities to respond.
Dr. Nimaya Mogga, FAO’s Representative in South Sudan said rabies is a fatal disease and once a person is affected and the clinical signs of the disease appear, it is about 99.5% fatal.
He disclosed this during an occasion to mark the World Rabies Day and the launch of a nationwide vaccination and awareness campaign at Malakia Veterinary Clinic in Juba yesterday.
World Rabies Day is celebrated annually to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in combating the disease, and also celebrate the anniversary of Louis Pasteur’s death, the French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.
Dr. Nimaya said it’s vital that the public prevent the disease rather than cure it. He said the majority of those affected by the disease are mainly in Africa and Asia. “Rabies is a preventable disease than other diseases like malaria. But it’s quite unfortunate that we continue to lose lives because of rabies,” he added.
He further said that pets like dogs and cats (in people’s homes) need to be vaccinated and suggested that surveillance systems need to be put in place to monitor outbreaks and have a quick intervention in order to control the spread of the disease.
“Policies and strategies need to be enacted to control rabies from spreading and raise awareness amongst the public as to how the disease is spread and how to avoid infection,” Dr. Mogga said.
Speaking at the same occasion, Dr. Ghada James Kila, the Chairperson of South Sudan Veterinary Society, said dogs are becoming a big problem in the country and the situation needs to be urgently addressed.
She said despite this challenge, they continue to face logistics challenge, which she said hinder their work in one way or another.
Rose Paulino Lesuk, Jubek State Minister of Agriculture, Animal Resources and Fisheries, said more effort is needed to control rabies in the country. “We have the issue of vaccines. We have to make them available, we cannot afford to continue importing vaccine all the time,” Ms. Lesuk said.
She suggested that the government and its partners need to improve the gaps in coordination and efforts to curb the spread of the killer disease (rabies).
James Janka Duku, the National Minister of Livestock and Fisheries said means and measures have been devised by his ministry through vaccination to control rabies. He said the day is significant as it focused on the health of human beings and that of animals as well.
“As a national government, we should join the international community to eradicate rabies by the year 2030 and have the capacity to identify the disease, set up laboratories and take the necessary measures,” Janka said.
He further said his ministry intends to set up a laboratory at the ministry’s premises as well as set up monitoring and surveillance mechanisms across the country and carry out a nationwide vaccination campaign.
FAO and partners have teamed up with its partners, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, South Sudan Veterinary Association, Veterinary Sans Frontiers (Swiss and Germany), Smile Again Africa Development Organization (SAADO) and Nile Hope to raise awareness in the Juba community and offer treatment to all animals.
With this intervention, FAO hopes to minimise the spread of rabies among the domestic and stray dog populations and thereby also reducing the risk of transmission of rabies in human populations. Also, FAO strives to enhance the knowledge and level of awareness of communities on dog healthcare practices and public health risks associated with dogs.