Rabies Awareness must be heightened in Sierra Leone -HED Manager

Harold Thomas, Ag. Programme Manager HED & DHSE Communication Lead, Ministry of Health and Sanitation

By Ibrahim Sorie Koroma

The Acting Programme Manager Health Education Division in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Harold Thomas who also doubles as the Communication Lead at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergencies has called on the media to raise awareness on the risk factors of animal bites (dogs & cats) which can sometimes lead to rabies infection.

Mr. Thomas made the plea at a regional review meeting organized for District Health Education Officers /Social Mobilization Coordinators, Station Managers & Health for All Coalition District Coordinators in the South East and North West Regions in Kenema & Port Loko districts on Wednesday 9th October & Friday 11th October, respectively.

In his presentation, Mr. Thomas said that there has been an increase of dog bites in communities across the country, adding that Cases of animal bites are more reported for dog bites and that there are more animal bites (dogs & Cats) cases reported in 2017 but there has been a steady increase already in 2019

He also said that Bo has been the highest reporting district of dog bites in 2 of the 3 years reporting period, citing that most of the cases on animal bites from the neighboring districts are reported in BO. Mr. Thomas attributed the increase reporting of animal bits (dogs & Cats) as a result of the recent improvement made in the MoHS surveillance System.

Mr. Thomas said that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is concerned about animal bites because of the possibility of rabies infection from domesticated and wild animals and that is why they are now promoting elimination of rabies in domestic and bush animals. “When a rabid animal/dog bites someone the issue has moved from the health of the animal/dog to the health of the human”…  He continues…  “That is the more reason the Ministry of Health & Sanitation is calling on the media to support in the area of awareness raising /public education on the risk factors of animal bites/rabies, as prevention is better than cure”. Mr. Thomas Urged the Media.

He said rabies is found in mammals; animals that can give birth to their young alive and can suckle. He continued that in Sierra Leone, the primary source of rabies is dogs and that the fatality rate of rabies is high noting that there are 4 known survivors of rabies in the world.

He advised  that when a dog has bitten someone that dog should not be killed, but should be isolated and observed for 10 days for signs and symptoms of rabies and if signs and symptoms persist the victim should report to the health facility for palliative treatment/care and the rabid dog should be reported to a veterinary/livestock officer.

Mr. Thomas also advised parents to warn their children from disturbing dogs, especially lactating and hungry dogs, as it puts them at risk of being bitten by dogs with further risk of rabies infection.

He further called on people to be responsible pet owners and argued the issue of stray dogs, as these dogs were some time owned by people, but could not care for them resulting to what is known as stray dogs.

He closed by calling the attention of people to take note of the signs and symptoms of a rabid dog and he advised people to refrain from them. He cited that a rabid dog salivates continuously with saliva running from its mouth and swags as it moves and has spots in its body. Are times a rabid dog can be cool and as well be aggressive?



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