Rabies: Health threat to animals in Western and Western North Regions

Rabies is a viral infectious disease that spreads from animals to humans and continues to pose a public health threat to animals in the Western and Western North Regions. Though officers from the Veterinary Services Directorate annually embark on vaccination exercise in Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA's) across the two regions, owners of domestic animals especially dogs, cats and monkeys deliberately refuse to send them for vaccination. Statistics In 2000, the Western Region recorded a total of 1,475 dog bite cases, as against 1,547 in 2021. For 2022 a total of 1,509 cases were recorded, while in 2023 a total of 500 have so far been recorded. On human rabies deaths, in 2017, out of nine cases recorded, eight passed on, in 2018, two deaths were recorded and between 2019 to 2023, one death was recorded each year. Reported cases of rabies in dogs' data for the past five years revealed that in 2017, 14 positive cases were recorded; in 2018 six cases were reported, while in 2019 13 cases were reported with 11 cases reported in 2020 and 2022 reported eight cases. Although the year 2023 has not ended, a total of 21 positive cases have already been recorded. Dr Simon Gbene, Regional Veterinary Officer in-charge of the Western and Western North Regions, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA), that all these suspected cases were confirmed by a laboratory test. Challenges 'Our major headache is the cooperation of pet owners in the Western and Western North Regions. We take the vaccines to them and yet they do not want to vaccinate their dogs' he lamented. He said: 'From the 2010 census which has not been updated, the total population of dogs and cats in the two regions stood at 156,000. For our annual vaccination this year as of Friday 29th September 2023, a total of 3,365 dogs and 29 cats have been vaccinated but is not encouraging.' Dr Gbene said: 'The reason for the low recorded number of vaccinated pets is because citizens are unwilling to present their pets for vaccination and thus accounted for the number of positive rabies cases'. He explained that currently we are educating owners of these pets as there is a law in the Local Governance Act 2016, Act 936 Schedule 8, number 1 is dog license. It is obligatory that if you have a dog, you need a license to keep it. If you do not, and you are taken to court you may be convicted to a jail term of six months, a fine or both' Also, we have laws, in the Public Health Act 2012 Act 851 and Disease of Animal Act 1961 Act 83 all of them capture aspects of citizens vaccinating their animals and not only against rabies' He recalled that the Directorate had prosecuted several citizens in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality and would extend the exercise to the other districts and municipalities in both the Western and Western North Regions to serve as a deterrent to the public. Educational programmes 'The Directorate would be rolling out this education regularly because dogs are the major transmitter of rabies to humans and currently the World Health Organization (WHO) has a target to eliminate rabies by 2030' Dr Gbene announced. Additionally, the Regional Veterinary Officer, revealed that 'reason why we are elated with the Local Governance Act is that with this one when the assembly officers check for licenses, they will include dogs, so for instance with the e-tankas instituted by the Western Regional Coordinating Council, under the leadership of the Western Regional Minister, Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, l have written to him that they should include dogs so owners who fail to abide by the law would be fine instantly.' He noted that the directorate would liaise with assembly members, unit committee members and traditional authorities to sensitize dog owners on the importance of having licenses for their dogs, adding, it would help eliminate the prevalence of rabies. The Regional Veterinary Officer appealed to pet owners to cooperate with the directorate because they were their clients, and always wanted cordial relations to exist between them. When the GNA visited some Municipal and District Assemblies in the Western and Western North Regions to interact with some dog owners on the dangers associated with not vaccinating their dogs, some promised to do so were unconcerned. World Rabies Day falls on September 28 of every year. The theme for this year was 'All for one, one health for all'.

Source: Ghana News Agency