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The World Health Organisation estimates that 2,000 Kenyans die from rabies every year.

Poor handling of pets in Igembe North, Meru County has been blamed for recurrent rabies outbreaks in the region.

The many stray dogs and wild dogs in the area bordering the Meru National Park have been linked to the outbreaks, with the latest one being last week when four cows succumbed to rabies.

Late last month, two people at Ntunene were treated for rabies. In May 2017, 90 people were treated, while two succumbed to rabies infection after being bitten by dogs in Igembe North and Igembe Central.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 2,000 Kenyans die from rabies every year.

According to Igembe North veterinary officer Stanley Mugambi, locals are reluctant to vaccinate their dogs, which makes it difficult to contain the disease.

“I have taken samples from the affected cattle, but preliminary diagnosis for the cows that died last week points to rabies,” said Dr Mugambi, adding that most residents have poor attachment to their dogs and cats, which hampers vaccination campaigns.

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“We have held vaccination drives, but residents are reluctant to bring their dogs and cats. They don’t even feed them well, so when the animals are released at night, they go scavenging where they might contract the virus when they interact with wild dogs.

“There are about 1,000 dogs in Igembe North, but only 300 have been vaccinated,” said the veterinarian, adding that more than 100 stray dogs were killed last year in a bid to control rabies.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is fatal. It is passed on to dogs through a bite from an infected animal; through a scratch or when the dog’s mucous membranes or open, fresh wounds come into contact with infected saliva.

The infected dog can then pass the virus to humans by biting them. It takes two to eight weeks before symptoms appear, but the infected dog can transmit the virus before then.

Early symptoms include behaviour changes (especially aggression), attacking other animals, humans and objects, fever, and constantly licking, biting or chewing the site where they were bitten.

The disease can be eliminated by vaccinating most dogs in an area regularly for several years. Cats and dogs should be vaccinated every year.

The Global Alliance for Rabies Control have set a target to eradicate human rabies deaths by 2030’.



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