By Ibrahim Sorie Koroma
With Support from USAID – Breakthrough ACTION, the One Health Platform which consists of Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Environment Protection Agency, Office of National Security & other partners on Thursday October 17th and Friday October 18th engaged districts stakeholders in the South-East Region in Bo City and the North East region in Makeni City, respectively.
The purpose of the stakeholders meeting was to orientate and dialogue district stakeholders on an awareness raising campaign on the risks factors of animal bites/rabies scheduled to take place in September this year; thereby capacitating stakeholders to take required actions to prevent animal bites/rabies in their communities and districts as prevention of rabies starts with the animals/dogs.
In his presentation, Senior Disease Surveillance Officer, Mohamed Baba Jalloh at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation said that their main function is to surveillance diseases of national priority and they are currently surveillance over 47 diseases of Public Health Concerns. Mr. Jalloh continued that the MoHS Surveillance Unit does not surveillance and report rabies but animal bites (Dogs & Cats).
Mr. Jalloh further said that comparing the national cumulative figures of animal bites (dogs & cats) reported by districts for week 1-52 between 2017 & 2018, there is an increase in animal bites cases of 1,4811 in 2017 while 2018 records 1,336 cases of animal bites which is little lower than that of 2017.
He further compared week 1-38 between 2017 & 2018 stating that there has been a sharp increase on animal bites in districts of which 2018 records 967 and 2019 has so far records 1,133 of animal bites (dogs & cats), adding that here is increase of dog bites occurring in communities across the country and more Cases of animal bites are reported for dog bites. “Bo has been the highest reporting district of dog bites in 2 of the 3 years of reporting period, followed by Bombali District”, Added Mr. Jalloh.
He concluded that rabies is a dangerous disease than even Ebola and that the case fatality for Ebola is at 50-60 and that of Rabies is 99.9 % as majority of the victims who present with the signs & symptoms of rabies eventually die.
His colleague, Charles Cambay cautioned that every reported case of dog bit must be treated as a potential rabies case, until prove otherwise.
He added that the Ministry of Health through the Expanded Programme on Immunization does not bring in rabies vaccine as Sierra Leone has not got a strong justification to be supported with rabies vaccine, adding that it is only and when the country starts recording scientifically confirmed cases of rabies that the country would then make a case for rabies vaccine to be officially shipped and distributed in the country.
District Agriculture Officer in Bombali District, David Sellu Sellu was optimistic that they will soon start to diagnose rabies in dogs at that the Tekoh Laboratory in Makeni, Bombali District, as it is now fully equipped with trained, qualified and up to the task personnel to do the job, adding that their Epidemiological Unity is also up and running to be at per with their Ministry of Health and Sanitation counterpart.
He continued that when we talk of rabies the issue of dogs comes to mind because a Formative Research done in Bombali District by Breakthrough ACTION has shown that dogs account for 75% chances of transmitting rabies to humans while other mammals like monkeys, bats, goats, cows, pigs & cats account for lower percent chances of transmitting rabies to humans. “So, you see why the premium is on dogs, Fumed Mr. Sellu.
While addressing District Stakeholders, Chief of Party, James Fofanah & Assistant Chief of Party, Tina Dickerson said that they were going to support the One Health Partners to day a national rabies awareness raisin campaign in November, as knowledge on the risk factors of rabies is key for rabies prevention in communities, adding that they have developed Information Communication Materials – IEC (Radio Spots, Jingles, Posters Awareness Cards & Job Aid Guide) for distribution to district stakeholders, health workers and the One Health Partners.
The orientation workshop drew participants from Ministry of Health & Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone Police Force, Office of National Security, Councils, Traditional Leaders, Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union, Inter Religious Council, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society and Office of National Security.