Get your dogs vaccinated – Schlettwein

• By Rosalia David

THE Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Calle Schlettwein has urged pet owners to have their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies every single year.

Schlettwein said this in commemoration of World Rabies Day that took place last week.

“Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies virus transmission to people. Dog vaccination reduces deaths in humans that can be attributed to rabies transmitted by dogs. Dog vaccination reduces also the need for the immediate treatment of someone bitten or scratched by a rabid animal,” he said.

The aim of World Rabies Day is to raise awareness about the importance of the fatal animal disease and human disease while providing factual information on how to prevent the disease in risk areas.

The minister said dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99 percent of all rabies transmissions to humans.

“It is a fact that rabies can affect both domestic and wild animals and the disease is spread to people and animals through dog bites or scratches, usually via the saliva,” he added.

When a person is bitten or scratched by a dog with change in behaviour, according to the minister, it is a must to undertake life-saving measures such as immediately washing the bite wound with soap and running water for at least 15 minutes.

“Visit the nearest hospital or clinic to get an anti-rabies vaccine injection and follow the instructions provided by the health officials,” Schlettwein emphasised.

The clinical signs of rabies in dogs include hyperactivity, difficulty in swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behaviour, aggression and/or self-mutilation and biting of anything.

“I therefore request you to report immediately any suspected rabid animal to the nearest veterinary office. The clinical signs of rabies in humans also include headache, fear of exposure to light, air or wind, fear of water, paralysis and coma.”

He said the most effective way to end human deaths from rabies is through a One Health Approach, a concept that was developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reflecting on the understanding that human health and animal health are inter-connected and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist.

According to the minister, the OIE, WHO and FAO recently launched the ‘United against Rabies Forum’ (UAR), that is a multi-stakeholder forum for advocating and prioritises investments in rabies control, and coordinates the global rabies-elimination efforts to achieve zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

“Under this global framework, Namibia has managed to develop its National Rabies Control Strategy in 2016 spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR) in collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), Ministry of Forestry and Tourism, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, and University of Namibia School of Veterinary Medicine,” he added.

The strategy is implemented countrywide by the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) in an effort to eliminate rabies and reduce human death to zero in the country, particularly in the Northern Communal Areas (NCA) which were identified to be rabies hot spot areas.