The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS) has confirmed the availability of Rabies vaccines after more than 4 months of shortage, The Patriot can reveal.
This comes as a huge relief for the general public, animal handlers and workers whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus from unvaccinated pets like dogs, as private hospitals and clinics are charging more than N$500 per injection.
A bite victim needs at least three injections within 28 days after being exposed to infected animals.
In an interview with The Patriot this week, MHSS spokesperson Manga Libita said, “we had a situation where we experienced a shortage of anti-rabies vaccine but I am pleased to inform you that we received the vaccine and are busy dispatching to respective health centres.”
The pre- exposure schedule for rabies vaccination known as Human Diploid Cell Vaccine (HDCV) is a 3 dose injection given as follows: First dose- as appropriate, followed by the second dose which is given 7 days after first dose and lastly, third dose which one gets 28 days after first dose. It is regarded as safest and effective vaccine that is administered intramuscularly in the deltoid area.
Manga acknowledged the need for all Veterinary Services Providers in the country to work together with MHSS in preventing the spread of rabies by means of vaccinating animals especially pets.
“Control of rabies in the dog population by having them vaccinated and access to human rabies post- exposure prophylaxis can substantially reduce the burden of rabies in human population”, explained Manga.
Rabies as one of the communicable disease continue to be a public health concern not only in Namibia, but world-wide.
The exact magnitude of animal bites in the country is not really known but studies from World Health Organisation (WHO) have estimated that, dog bite incidence account for 76-94% of animal bite injuries.
Dog bite fatality rates are said to be high in low and middle income countries, more so than high income countries as rabies is a problem in many of these countries which is attributed to lack of post- exposure treatment and appropriate access to vaccination.
An estimated 55 000 people die annually from rabies and rabid dogs account for vast majority of these deaths.
Rabies is a viral disease caused by a neurotrophic virus in the genus family of Rhabdoviridae and is spread via the saliva of an infected animal, which occurs through biting a human being. After being bitten by a rabid animal, the virus is deposited in the muscle and subcutaneous tissue.
The virus then travels via peripheral nerves to the brain and from there again via peripheral nerves, to nearly all parts of the body.
Any mammal can spread rabies, but in Africa, stray dogs are most likely to transmit this disease. It is for this reason that any activity that brings people in contact with possible rabid animals may increase one’s risk of getting infected with rabies.
In human beings, symptoms of rabies can take two forms namely paralytic rabies and furious rabies. Symptoms of the former include; paralysis of muscles slowly at the site of the bite but this is not very common while symptoms of the latter include depression, hallucinations, difficulty in swallowing and hydrophobia- a term that refers to fear and avoidance of water.
Therefore, the mental state of a person infected varies from maniacal excitement to dull apathy which means madness.
A single dose of rabies vaccine for animals is costing N$277 at Windhoek Veterinary Clinic and is valid for one year. Veterinarians from the same clinic generally advise all pet owners to vaccinate these animals and keep them away from wild outdoor animals.
Further, it is also advised that, the general public must be aware of stray animals when travelling and consider vaccinations if they intend spending time in areas where rabies is common.