Rabies is a fatal disease of mammals, including man, caused by Rabies virus. It is usually transmitted via saliva of infected animals, especially dogs. Rabies is responsible for more than 55,000 human deaths annually worldwide. It causes over 24,000 human deaths a year in Africa, killing most often a child every 20 minutes mostly in poor rural communities.
3-Tier News visited rural communities in Gombi, Fufore and Mayo-Belwa LGAs and discovered that inspite of how the inhabitants fancy keeping dogs at home as both guards and hunters, there are very little measures to tackle any case of rabies.
In fact, in Garkida Community when 3-Tier News visited, there was a case of rabies that occurred recently. Leading us to the household of the victim, one of the community elders, Baba Tomag Sanduki said that every year, some of the inhabitants in the community had die of rabies.
Narrating the ugly incident in the household of the victim, one of the family members, Mr. Victor Abu revealed that the incident occurred on the 8th of March 2018, stating that the incidence was not the first that the dwellers in the community witnessed.
According to him, “It was a wedding reception, when friends, relatives, neighbours and well-wishers were busy dancing, a domestic dog emerged from its owner’s compound and snapped at the tip of the ring finger of my grandmother who was among the several visitors in that compound. She had to be rushed to Yola for medical intervention while the dog was killed by members of the community. She is now responding to treatment at FMC Yola”.
According to 3-Tier News observations in the community, the immediate conveyance of the dog bite victim to the health centre for medical intervention and shipment of the head of the killed dog reveals some level of awareness on the part of the community on what to do when there is human exposure to rabies suspect animals.
But in the next community of Taimah, 3-Tier News discovered that with the none or low level of awareness, unfounded traditional treatments are resorted to or nothing is done at all, putting the life of victim in danger of rabies infection.
A cross section of dwellers in the communities noted that last year about 4 people lost their lives as a result of rabies infection. According to them, the main factor that led to these deaths was due to lack of awareness of what to do and how to handle persons that are infected by rabies.
Mr. Emmanuel Biri said that with no health centre in the community and lack of awareness of what to do, victims of rabies infection are always left to their fate where most of them die in the process, adding that there is need for the Local Government Council and the primary healthcare centres to embrace their responsibilities by carrying out vaccine exercise in the various rural communities.
In his words, “Rural people cannot live without dogs. Dogs help us in doing many things at home and in the bush during hunting. We are in danger because if anybody is biten by rabbid dog, the highest we can do as rural people is to try the tradition way, and such has not been working over the years. Please let the local government council and the health centre come to our rescue”.
In Yadim community of Fufore LGA, 3-Tier News found out that despite the presence of a health clinic, most of the inhabitants are unaware of the steps to follow, (including first-aid treatment) when a person falls a victim of infected bites.
According to the dwellers in the Verre dominated community, they are aware of bites by mad dogs but in the absence of what is expected from them, they are left between the devil and the deep blue sea, adding that any death cause by rabies in the community are largely attributed to the ignorance of the community people on how to go about treatment.
Mallam Audu Dauda said, “Our first problem is that we can't differentiate between rabbid dogs and other dogs, and all dogs bake and bite. It is when you know a one that you will think of what to do, even at that, we don't know what to do. We need to be enlightened, to know what are the signs. Actually, our ignorance on this problem is really disturbing us, and it places us in a difficult situation”.
Speaking to 3-Tier News, a cross section of health workers said that all the cases of rabies were as a result of bites from stray dogs with unknown history of rabies vaccinations, and the outcome was 100% in all cases. They stated that they have been making efforts to create and strengthen awareness campaigns on control of rabies infections through responsible dog ownership, including their regular vaccinations as well as provision and use of prompt post exposure prophylaxis in human cases of dog bites at all levels of health care centres, especially in rural communities.
According to the health personnel at the various health centres in the rural communities visited, the rising cases of dog bites in villages generally result in huge financial costs of care, and majority of the victims in places without health care services may not afford the cost of the Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and resort to use of herbal medications with the attendant consequences.
Mr. Ethan Samuel, a health worker based in Garkida community at Gombi LGA said that dog bites is one of the cases they take seriously, adding that even though they cannot effectively treat rabies in the clinic, but they ensure they transfer the victim to Yola for medical intervention.
In his words, “We had a case of rabies recently in this community. An old woman of 62 years old was bitten by rabies, I think it was during a wedding reception. We quickly intervened by taking her to Specialist Hospital Yola. Later, she was taken to FMC Yola. As I am talking to you, she is responding to treatment”.
Asked how the rural dwellers are expected to handle a victim of rabies, Mr. Ethan responded, “Good question. As it happened recently, the people tried. Firstly, the victim should be taken to the health centre, and the dog should be killed because diagnosis has to be done on the head of the dog in order to know exactly what to do.
“As with the case of the old woman, while necessary first aide treatment was being given to the victim the head of the dog was presented for rabies diagnosis. The diagnosis result came out and was positive for rabies. Based on the result, the first shot of rabies PEP was administered to the victim. Second, third, fourth and fifth doses of the PEP would be given 3, 7, 14 and 28 days post exposure respectively, in accordance with the WHO recommendations. Good level of awareness on rabies in the rural communities, availability of rabies vaccine and close proximity to standard diagnostic facility would go a long way in preventing the deadly rabies infection from occurring”.
Local Government Officials who spoke to 3-Tier News in Gombi, Fufore and Mayo-Belwa LGAs said that the councils are not unaware of the deaths caused by rabies in rural communities over the years, and they have been making efforts to implement the rabies vaccine.
According to the LG officials, the staff of the primary health care centres have started embarking on sensitization campaign in rural communities on how the dwellers would live a rabies-free life, noting that they were worried how the rural inhabitants are left to their fate dying in silence as a result of rabies.
One of the council workers in Gombi LGA, Alh. Umar Dahiru expressed, “How to handle dog bites in rural communities is a huge cause of concern, especially from first aid treatment. But we have been doing our best to enlighten the inhabitants of what to do should such things occur”.