In 2015 I witnessed a series of rabies cases in the Emergency department which all ended in the death of the victims.
What all victims had in common were that;
1. They had all experience dog bites.
2. They were all ignorant of first aid after a dog bite.
These patients died basically due to ignorance.
The Healthy pets, Healthy humans campaign was birth after a patient who had sought medical care after the dog bite was given tetanus injection and asked to go home, only to acquire rabies later.
I realized then the problem of ignorance was not just with the people but the health care givers as well.
The campaign was started in December 2015. This was what we did…
1. We created audio CDs on Rabies education and prevention in the local Twi dialect. The audio included how rabies was transmitted, animals that can transmit rabies, what to do after a bite, signs and symptoms of rabies, etc.
2. We partnered with some Assembly men in the Kumasi metropolis who in turn led us to the various information centers. After speaking with them, they played the audio CDs for a week to sensitize the people.
3. After playing the CDs, we organized mass anti-rabies vaccination for those communities.
4. In all three communities were visited for vaccination but the audio was played in five communities. 50 dogs were vaccinated against rabies.
These were our findings after interactions with the people:
1. The people were eager to vaccinate their dogs after they heard the education via the information centres.
2. Secondly, the people were willing to pay to vaccinate their animals contrary to popular belief that Ghanaians wanted free vaccination and there were no funds for that.
3. Most dog owners were discouraged from sending their dogs to the veterinary due to;
a. Long distance from their homes to the roadside.
b. Transportation cost from taking a taxi with the dog to and from the veterinary hospital.
4. Others also did not know the severity of rabies so they never thought it wise to send their dogs.
Thsee are my recommendations:
1. I believe the education on Rabies should be made paramount to the understanding of the average Ghanaian. Innovative strategies like ours need to be employed to deliver the message to the people.
2. Our health care workers need to be abreast with the management of Rabies and other conditions that frequently present at their facilities. Tetanus as the only treatment after a dog bite has to stop! People are dying when they shouldn’t.
3. Well functioning animal laws need to be put in place and monitored to control and reduce the reckless ownership of animals and stray dogs in our societies.
4. Ministry of health and the Government at large need to start giving attention to quality health education and preventive health as a whole to better improve the health and choices of Ghanaians.
NB: Healthy pets Healthy humans is a campaign that needs to supported adopted by the Government and other stakeholders to be done on regional and national levels to help combat the incidence of Rabies in our dear country Ghana.
This approach can very well be adopted by other African countries.
It is Possible!
Help me spread the word.