Ghana has recorded a total of 55 deaths caused by rabies virus last year as against 34 recorded in 2015.
This year, the Central Region has already recorded one death last month with fear of a possible outbreak of the disease.
The Head of Public Health Veterinary Services, Dr. Bashiru Kikimoto of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, who disclosed this to The Ghanaian Times in Accra yesterday, warned of a looming danger if steps were not taken to tackle the spread of the disease.
He said his outfit urgently needed funding to conduct mass vaccination of dogs in all parts of the country to halt any epidemic.
That, he said, was necessary considering the 38 per cent increase in the number of cases recorded over the two-year period.
Dr. Kikimoto explained that it was imperative to control deaths caused by the rabies virus and reduce the death toll which suddenly increased from 34 to 55.
“Ghana needs funding to provide at least 70 per cent coverage of vaccination in the country for three years continually to rid the country of the virus” he said.
Dr. Kikimoto said one person had been reported dead of rabies infection as of January 4, this year, hence the need for the re-introduction of the national anti-rabies campaign to make pet owners more responsible.
He also called on government for the importation of more human vaccines to control and prevent any more deaths.
Dr. Kikimoto said, although rabies is a neglected and severely under-reported disease, it is passed from animals to humans especially in developing countries.
According to him, control methods including free dogs vaccination and removal of stray dogs had stopped because of inadequate funds.
“Since the conditionalities by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to privatise veterinary services in Ghana in 1996, the onus had been on individual districts to organise their own mass vaccination campaigns” he said.
According to him, unless medically proven otherwise by health professionals, contacts with dogs resulting in bites and scratches should be taken seriously.
“Although rabies was treatable, most affected persons did not survive it” he bemoaned.
Dr. Kikimoto said rabies infections had become rampant in Ghana and appealed to owners of such animals to vaccinate them.
He admonished Ghanaians, to be mindful of stray dogs and cats, saying the affected dogs did not only carry the rabies virus but also had some harmful parasites.
Despite the high fatality rate, he said the government and other stakeholders had not given it the needed attention and noted that majority of the cases went unreported, increasing the fatality rate.
He said, rabies could be prevented if bites and scratches were washed immediately with soap under running water as a first aid before seeking medical treatment at a health facility and advocated intensification on vaccination education.
He advised the vaccination of all dogs in the country to prevent needless deaths.
“When you vaccinate dogs against rabies, the primary concern is to prevent humans from getting rabies,” he said.
“Dog vaccines are ten times cheaper than human vaccines. It therefore, makes sense to vaccinate your dog to prevent people from being bitten by a rabies infected dog.”
He explained that, dog vaccines was 5.00 while human vaccines ranged from GH¢300.00 to GH¢ 600.00 dependent on the severity of the bite and added that it was affordable and available in most veterinary clinics.
By Benedicta Gyimaah Folley