Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services (DLVS) in Matabeleland North Province has expressed concern over the rise in animal deaths due to rabies owing to a drastic drop in numbers of dogs coming for vaccination routines.
Matabeleland North provincial veterinary officer Dr Polex Moyo said the decline in the number of dogs coming for rabies vaccination was alarming with the situation likely to be catastrophic to both livestock and human beings.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical symptoms. In up to 99 percent of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans and other animals. It is spread through bites or scratches, usually via saliva.
“We sent (since the beginning of this year) more than 25 samples to the laboratory and 88 percent of them came out (rabies) positive including a human being from Nkayi,” said Dr Moyo.
He said since the beginning of the year 25 cases of rabies deaths have been recorded in the province with the disease claiming 11 cattle, nine dogs, three goats, one cat and one person. Nkayi District has the highest recorded cases of rabies with 14 followed by Bulawayo which has seven. Dr Moyo said the province has over the years failed to attain its target of vaccinating 75 000 dogs per annum.
“People have got to be aware that they have to vaccinate their animals. We have put in place rabies days and we have done a lot of campaigns but people are not bringing their dogs for vaccination. Our target that we had set as a province was to vaccinate about 75 000 dogs a year. We have not reached that target,” he said.
Dr Moyo said the number of dogs being vaccinated for rabies started dropping in 2015 when the Department started demanding a fee of $1 for vaccination. The fee is meant to assist in coming up with a revolving fund for the purchasing of rabies vaccines.
“People are not bringing their dogs for vaccination maybe it’s because we ask them to pay a token fee of a $1 to cover for rabies vaccines . . . when we were not demanding payment, on average we used to cover about 45 000 dogs then when we started requiring payment we went down to 23 000.
“We are encouraging people to bring their dogs for vaccination. It’s (vaccinating) just a dollar than to lose human life. Technically if we do justice with vaccinating we should cover about 75 percent of the dogs then we will have lesser rabies cases. Understandably vaccines are a challenge at times but when they are there people should bring the dogs,” said Dr Moyo.
Last year 20 700 dogs were vaccinated for rabies in the province.
He said the country faces a major challenge in its efforts to strive towards the 2030 target of zero human deaths due to canine rabies.
“Globally we are targeting zero rabies by 2030 and if we are to meet that target we have a lot of work to do. Cattle, which die have a history of dog bites even the people. So as a province and nation we have to play our part and raise awareness that dogs should be vaccinated,” said Dr Moyo.-@DNsingo