Rabies Control: BA N, experts call for collaborative efforts


By Ruth Oginyi

Ebonyi State Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Environment in collaboration with USAID Breakthrough Action Nigeria(BA-N) and other partners, on Friday met with stakeholders in veterinary services to find ways of ending rabies in the state.

The symposium which was part of activities marking the 2023 World Rabies Day held on Thursday 28 September, took place at the Ministry of Agriculture Abakaliki.

At the meeting, the permanent secretary Ministry of Agriculture Mrs. Felicia Arusi assured that they will work with other ministries to achieve the goal.

Dr. Michael Nwokporo deputy director of state epidemiology thanked the stakeholders including partners for their zeal to create awareness of rabies and end the viral disease in the state.

Nwokporo said that funding is a major challenge in curbing the rabies spread pointing out that partners may withdraw their support hence the need for govt to develop a policy on rabies control.

He thanked BA N for their support to the ministry.

Felix Okocha Risk Communication and Community Engagement Officer- Breakthrough Action -Nigeria in his remarks said no gap should be created in fighting the virus pointing out that one case of rabies is automatically an outbreak therefore every suspected case should be taken to a laboratory for investigation.

Okocha who Highlighted the core areas of BA-N in Ebonyi noted that what BA N is doing in Ebonyi has improved service uptake in the primary health care centers as a lot of pregnant women now go for anti-natal service, a lot of women have access to the health care services.

He said BA -N will employ the same measure to tackle rabies in the state.

“For BA- N to be able to do this, we have structures. We have a community structure, and stakeholders, we are discussing the gaps in Rabies communication in the communities that is what we do. Ensure that People in the community get the right messages concerning health so that they will be improved in services up-take at the PHCs that is what we do so it is a good opportunity to collaborate with BA-N.

“It is data that will make a donor to support. It is data that made BA-N to support the Ministry of Agriculture.

“What I heard here today, the burden is huge because the data they share is like one case of rabies but because one case of rabies is an outbreak that is why we decided to support the Ministry of Agriculture to celebrate World Rabies Day, we supported them during the mass vaccination campaign.

And this symposium we are also supporting them because our mandate is social behavioral change communication. To sensitize people, to create awareness of the public burden of diseases so that people can have a change of behavior.

So I think the issue that came out today will strengthen our collaboration because areas we need support have come out clearer. Regarding the issue of rabies, “not all bites are rabies” I want us to relate it to what we do in AFP. AFP for Polio, every child that has a weakness of the limb we classify as polio, harvest all of them under surveillance then the lab will classify the one that is polio and the one that is not polio. I think that is what we need to do for rabies.

“ We are happy to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture and since what you are doing is the area we are interested in that requires social behavioral change communication to address the myths, and misconceptions that come out of the issue, we will take the issue to the country office and see areas for further collaboration.

Okocha emphasized the need for urgent inauguration of the technical working group so that the aim will be achieved and rabies brought to an end by 2030.

Contributing, Dr. Gloria Ozia Magaji Chairman Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association Ebonyi state chapter said about 5,000 dogs and 36 cats have been vaccinated in the state since the vacation campaign kicked off.

“We need to reinforce the EOCs, and nobody should die of rabies in the state because it is 100% preventive. Mogaji said.

She explained that veterinary service providers in the field will also be vaccinated to ensure their safety,

Dr. Solomon Olorunleke a lecturer with Ebonyi State University in his presentation tagged Rabies Control: a Collaborative Approach, said the burden of disease is disproportionally borne by rural poor populations, with approximately half of the cases attributable to children under 15 years of age which is the future generations called for collaborative efforts to save the younger generation.

Dr. Solomon defined Rabies as an acute highly fatal encephalomyelitis of warm-blooded animals and is known to be enzootic in Nigeria.

He said the viral disease poses a significant threat to both human and animal populations.

“Rabies is estimated to cause 59,000 human deaths annually in over 150 countries, with 95% of cases occurring in Africa and Asia. Due to underreporting and uncertain estimates, this number is likely a gross underestimate (WHO, 2022).

The veterinary expert further highlighted the Economic Importance of rabies Which includes Healthcare costs, Companion Animals, Productivity losses, Livestock, and Agriculture, Travel and Trade, and Wildlife Restrictions.

He said Stakeholder engagement is a useful tool for identifying and analyzing the various individuals, groups, and organizations involved in the control of rabies.

The experts urged Ebonyi people especially the rural populace to keep their environment clean and report any case of dog or cat bite for intervention.
Rabies incubation period in humans is between 20-90 days.

You can get the viral disease through an infected sliver of an infected animal.

Picture ; participants at the symposium

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