ARUA – Uganda has on Tuesday, September 28 joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Rabies Day.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO took this year’s commemoration to West Nile, being the most affected part of Uganda under the theme, rabies; spread fact not fear.
During the celebration held in Vurra county, Arua district, Dr. Willy Nguma, the area District Veterinary Officer, said the district “just like other districts of West Nile region” is endemic to the rabies disease.
Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite of affected animals mostly dogs and cats.
Dr. Nguma revealed that the disease in the district is highly spread by the dogs, however, he said that not only dogs and cats can spread rabies but also the pig, goats, sheep that are infected are likely to spread rabies.
“Not every bite of a dog will result in rabies, these are points that people must understand,” he said.
According to him, every month the district receives reports of animals bites, ranging from 25-35.
“Month of August had 187 animal bites reported, remember, some go unreported.”
Uganda targets to end rabies by 2030.
The representative of Chief Guest, the State Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Mark Bukenya, also the Arua district Chief Administrative Officer said that plans to draft a by-law to regulate owning dogs in the greater Arua is in advanced stages with the aim of eliminating the spread of rabies.
According to him, the facts about the disease have been overshadowed by misinformation from fake news about rabies and fear among communities.
“Rabies is a hundred percent preventable through regular animal vaccination especially dogs and cats.”
FAO Representative in Uganda Dr. Antonio Querido said that the Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to misinformation and misconception about the disease.
Through his representative, Charles Bebay, Regional Manager, Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Disease – ECTAD, Eastern Africa, Dr. Querido said that fake news and fear can negatively affect the disease elimination efforts.
He, however, re-echoed that facts are the only way to beat fake news.
Dr. Emmanuel Isingoma an expert on animal disease assured the public that rabies is preventable, however, stressed that the village perception has always associated it with witchcraft which is a major setback in the fight against rabies in the countryside.
The district chairperson Alfred Okuonzi warned the people with a mythical belief that dog saliva cures wounds to stop the risk of contracting rabies and escalating the spread.
The president Uganda Veterinary Association Dr. Daniel Kasibule appealed to the government to review the veterinary policy if rabies and other related diseases are to be kicked out of Uganda.
Speaking to the press after the training of veterinary officers on Monday, Ms Ewachabo Roselin Sandra, assistant CAO, Arua attributed the increased rabies in Arua to stray dogs.
“Some families keep over ten dogs,” she said.
According to her, in 2021, the district so far has registered over 270 cases, 89 of whom are children under fourteen years, females 48, males 135, and deaths 6.
“Last year we had 182 males, 149 females, under fourteen 160 and 09 deaths in Arua district. So, it’s good you are celebrating this day at the grassroots, the people are going to hear from your direct mouth,” she said.
During the celebrations, tens of dogs and cats were immunized and castrated a gesture to control the spread of rabies.