Rabies: a vaccine-preventable disease

Rabies Dog

It is always said that prevention is better than cure, but the reality of this adage does not work in the lives of some people among the populace.

This is because the practice sometimes becomes difficult when in terms of application until things get worse before the public try to look for solutions.

It is against this background that sometimes either an individual or group of people in a community become infected by transmittable, but preventable diseases such as rabies.


Rabies, a 100 per cent vaccine-preventable disease is a viral disease, which spreads by the saliva of infected animals and leads to brain inflammation.

In other words, it is a viral disease that causes encephalitis in humans and other mammals after a bite by domestic animals, mostly dogs and cats, which have been affected by the disease.

An animal affected by rabies transmits the disease to humans through saliva. But its negative health effect can usually be prevented by vaccine after the bite.

According to Dr. Donald Joachim Darko, the Bono Regional Veterinary Services Officer, rabies is dangerous and life threatening if not well-treated.

In a recent interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Sunyani, he stated that only one person is known in the whole world to have survived rabies infection without receiving a preventable vaccine.

But even that the state of the girl’s health condition deteriorated that, her parents and loved ones wished her dead, Dr. Darko added.


He said the appearance of symptoms of rabies implies fatality, saying because of that, the public must report either a dog bite or scratch to a nearest health facility for first aid treatment and proceed to any available veterinary office for monitoring of the dog for investigations to establish if the animal is infected by the virus.

Rabies virus, Dr. Darko explained got into one’s body if the saliva of an infected animal entered an open wound, and moved very slowly along nerves into the central nervous system, that is the brain and spinal cord.

He said it could lead to coma and death after it had reached the brain.
The early symptoms of rabies, Dr. Darko indicated could include “fever and tingling at the site of exposure,” saying “these symptoms are followed by one or more of the following – nausea, vomiting, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, inability to move parts of the body and confusion.

He stated, “the rabies virus enters the tissues of the human body and starts to multiply.”
Dr. Darko added that the transmission of the disease sometimes might even happen from animal to animal. “After it has affected the tissues, the virus travels to the central nervous system through the spinal cord, and when it reaches the brain, it causes serious brain disorder called encephalitis which in-turn causes a number of symptoms awakened in the human body” with the probability of it causing the death of the infected person.

Increasing cases

Dr. Darko expressed worry about the increased cases of rabies associated with strayed dogs and asked why “people have to die of rabies which can be prevented at the early stages of its incidence”?
“Human rabies is becoming common due to unawareness and lack of access to appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis limitation,” he said, and stated that the most reported cases of increasing animal bites were attributable to stray dogs.

He therefore urged the public to report rabies incidence early for treatment and noted the incidence of the disease was likely to be underestimated due to under-reporting of cases to veterinary offices.

He explained an incidence of rabies might sometimes be heard after the death and burial of a victim.

Dr. Darko therefore stressed that embarking on rabies elimination campaign could bring reduction of cases.
Such a campaign, he said often revolved around mass dog vaccination whereby at least 70 per cent of dog population should be covered to break the cycle of transmission by dogs to humans.
Stakeholders’ role

Dr. Darko implored stakeholders to assist in implementing measures such as mass vaccination that could reduce rabies cases and to prevent the infections, vaccinating domestic pets against the disease, washing wounds with soap, and running water and keeping domestic pets away from strayed dogs.

He urged the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembles (MMDAs) to sponsor vaccination campaigns against the incidence of rabies to ensure mass vaccination of dogs in their jurisdictions, saying that could lead to national eradication of the disease.

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