The Federal Government has advised Nigerians to ensure frequent vaccination of their dogs and cats to curb the spread of rabies in the country.
Abubakar Kyari, minister of agriculture and food security, gave the advice in Abuja recently, on the occasion of this year’s World Rabies Day.
He said, “Rabies is the deadliest disease known to man with a fatality rate of almost 100 percent if adequate prophylaxis was not instituted immediately following an exposure. It is zoonotic in nature, affecting all warm-blooded animals and man and is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.
“In Nigeria, dogs are responsible for approximately 99 percent of these exposures, the burden of the disease was not known but it has been reported from every state in Nigeria occurring all year round with devastating outcomes in humans and livestock,” he said.
Kyari, however, said that the disease was 100 percent vaccine-preventable, pointing out that by vaccinating dogs and cats annually and keeping them on leash, rabies could be kicked out of Nigeria.
He said that the Federal Government has organised mass dog vaccination and vaccination of at-risk humans nationwide, noting that four states (Cross Rivers, Plateau, Kano and Borno) have also been earmarked for community engagement activities.
Tunji Alausa, minister of state for health and social welfare, stated rabies scientifically was caused by Lyssavirus which leads to progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. He added that the virus was spread through the saliva of the infected animal by biting or scratching another animal or human being.
Alausa further estimated that rabies was responsible for 59,000 agonising human deaths every year with most people living in poor, rural communities in Africa and Asia.
He said that one person dies of rabies around the world every nine minutes, according to Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), noting that in humans, the exact burden of rabies was not known because mapping was yet to be conducted.
In his address, Iziaq Salako, the minister of state, for the environment, decried the free movement of unlicensed dogs without the owners’ guide in communities in Nigeria, adding that stray dogs were the main source of the infection.
“Dogs interact with one another, with an exposure window for transmission of the virus from an infected dog, especially while competing and struggling for food from waste bins and improperly disposed food waste in the municipalities.”
Salako, therefore, called for concerted efforts by the public to ensure proper waste management, identify stray animal owners, sensitise and register dogs vaccinated to mitigate rabies.