Ghana would be able to achieve “Zero human rabies deaths by 2030” through mass dog vaccinations, targeting coverage of 70 per cent and above annually, the Head of Veterinary Epidemiology, Dr Yaw Fenteng Danso, has said.
He said there would be a continuous mopping-up phase to achieve the target, noting that dog vaccination was the most effective way to eliminate human dog-mediated rabies.
He was speaking yesterday at the opening of a three-day Ghana National Bridging Workshop on rabies in Accra.
It was organised by the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the One Health Technical Working Group of the Ghana Health Service, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the German Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI) and Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GAFC), World Health Organisation (WHO).
The workshop is to gather inputs into the design and preparation of a strategic plan for rabies control, following a one-health approach as well as provide an overview of Ghana’s status against global and national rabies.
It is also to identify appropriate prevention and control measures for eliminating dog-mediated rabies by 2030 and identify critical technical areas of strength and weakness in collaboration between animal and human health sectors for health security frameworks of WHO.
Dr Danso said the vaccination had become critical because the current surge in the incidence of rabies in several parts of the country, had been blamed on the low vaccination coverage, the unwillingness of pet owners to vaccinate their animals and the continuous presence of too many stray pets, whose owners could not be identified.
He said collaboration with the relevant sectors in surveillance and information sharing with respect to dog bites and suspected rabies cases was pertinent.
“Rabies is reported as an endemic disease in Ghana and among the 30 reportable zoonotic diseases, the disease was ranked among the six topmost priority zoonotic diseases in Ghana during a One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritisation workshop recently,” he stated.
According to Mr Danso, although rabies was fully preventable and could be eliminated using appropriate sustainable control strategies, a lack of adequate investment and concerted efforts had continued to result in an escalation of human deaths, especially in view of an ever-growing human and dog population.
“Rabies is the only disease known to have a 100 per cent case fatality rate except for a few reported cases of survivors, therefore, the golden rule is to prevent dog-mediated human rabies through mass vaccination of dogs and cats and post-exposure prophylaxis in humans” he added.
Dr Patrick Avevor, a representative of WHO said rabies was known to kill about 60,000 people each year-or one person every nine minutes mainly in Africa and Asia with over 40 per cent of those affected being children.
He said currently 99 per cent of all cases of human rabies result from the bite of an infected dog.
“It is in consideration of this, that the WHO is collaborating with other relevant organisations to implement a global strategic plan to eliminate dog-mediated human deaths by 2030”.
The District Chief Executive, Sarah Dugbakie Pobee, in a speech read on her behalf, said Ghana had, for years, battled with several public health emergencies over the years saying these emerging and endemic human diseases have their origins in animals, which are transmitted through food or the environment.
BY BENEDICTA GYIMAAH FOLLEY