In my last entry I looked at the issue of rabies, specifically on the demerits of the whole rabies control programme, while only concentrating on vaccination of dogs as an activity which should actually contribute to a series of activities which would together make up a rabies control programme.
Two ardent readers of this column have added their views on the exercise.
Your article on rabies, stray dogs and minimum household dogs was both educative and informative, and it raised some questions that authorities need to clarify.
Just like you are, I am also a professional disease prevention and control officer by training and practice. Currently, I am directly involved in the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases through meat inspection and other related activities. However, I am left with questions that need clarification by authorities.
On vaccination: Indeed, this is one of the measures for the control of rabies. However, immunisation campaigns of dogs nowadays are mostly carried out in Lilongwe and now Blantyre and they are organised by civil societies in conjunction with city authorities or the department of Animal Health and Livestock Development. Now my questions are:
lWhy are the campaigns mainly conducted in these cities only, leaving out Zomba and Mzuzu and the rest of the districts in the country as it used to be done in the past?
lWhy is the department responsible for animal health not on top of the campaigns?
On killing of stray dogs: I was an advocate of this strategy knowing that in the 1980s it was practised. However I learnt that there are animal welfare and rights groups that are against this practice. My questions are; therefore, as follows:
lAre animal rights more important than human life since rabies in humans is terminal?
lAre the costs incurred by government in treating a person bitten by a dog less valued to dog life by the animal welfare and rights groups? On two dogs per household: Yes I know of this policy or piece of legislation. However, throughout my working life I have failed to come across the link between the two scientifically.
lCan’t the relevant authorities review this legislation or policy to suit the 21st century scenario?
My point of view is; therefore, that strengthening of vaccination campaigns across the country and establishment of by-laws on care of dogs in the councils can contain rabies in the country.
Good to bring this issue out. I have all along wondered why nothing seems not be to be done on rabies in the country. In fact, I heard that over 60 people are bitten by dogs every month in Blantyre city alone. This is an unverified claim, of course, but it points out to something very grave for sure…in our environment.
Now, I would like to catch up with you because I am an advocate for anti-rabies campaign… once bitten by a dog and survived 14 anti-rabies injections at the age of 12…that is not a joke.
We may need to meet and discuss this further. You see, we need good functional policies, etc.
Thank you very much Moya and Goodwin for the time you take to read the column and the important points and questions raised.
I hope that officials in relevant departments—both in central government, districts and city councils—will take note of the important points you have raised and hope they will take the points on board to improve programme activities.
Please keep on reading and providing more feedback for improved delivery of articles.