My first encounter with Rabies
My first encounter with rabies is one that affected a family member and will forever be etched in my mind. In 2011, Priscilla, my grandmother, was lucky to have her 7 year old nephew, Edgar*, visit her family. One evening during his stay, he was unfortunately bitten by Priscilla’s dog. No one thought the bite was serious, therefore no proper wound care was done and no hospital visit was made for post exposure vaccination. Days later, Edgar exhibited excitation symptoms including attempts to bite other children. The dog developed aggressive behaviors including eating her puppies before it died. Edgar developed complications and was rushed to hospital but died a day after admission.
There are many questions that come to mind when thinking of how Edgar’s life was cut short by rabies.
- Did they not seek appropriate treatment due to lack of awareness or ignorance?
- Was it possible to prevent his death from rabies?
- What does the community know and perceive about rabies?
- What is the role of the national and county government, non-governmental organizations as well as the community in effective rabies prevention and control?
In my opinion, every individual has a role to play in rabies prevention and control. Rabies is 100% preventable by vaccination in both humans and animals. Mass dog vaccination and responsible dog ownership can reduce the rate of rabies infection in endemic areas, preventing human cases of rabies. This is not possible without information dissemination to the communities on rabies prevention and control geared towards elimination.
Edgar’s death should serve as an example of the need of more efforts geared towards rabies prevention and control. It is possible to have a RABIES FREE Kenya.
By Dr. Josephine Nekura Ndiwa
Note – Edgar’s name was changed for privacy.
For more information on rabies elimination activities in Kenya, visit ZDU
Dr. Ndiwa is a veterinarian by profession. She is undertaking her Msc. in Epidemiology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious diseases, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). She is currently involved with Dog Ecology work with the Zoonotic Disease Unit.