Earlier this year Bernadette Koki, a resident of Kivandini, Makueni county, was busy with her normal duties when one of her sons came running up to her to let her know that a dog had bitten one of her sons.
She owns several dogs, which had all been vaccinated against rabies with the exception of the one that bit her son. She found him bleeding profusely, he’d been trying to put the dog into its kennel when it turned on him.
As it was late evening, she administered basic first aid with the intention of taking him to hospital first thing in the morning. He was given an anti-tetanus jab and the first dose of anti-rabies injections and told to return for the second jab,” she recounted.
The treatment cost Sh1,200, all the money she had. Not having the money for the followup jabs, she hoped the first would suffice and prayed for a healing miracle. “I would check on him every morning hoping that he hadn’t gone ‘barking’ mad.
The hospital then followed up on why my son had not received the second injection as advised. They told me to take him to hospital where he was treated for free,” recounted Koki.
It is against a backdrop of cases such as this that Makueni county is calling out on its residents to ensure their dogs are vaccinated against the disease this World Rabies Day.
Makueni has had the highest prevalence of rabies in the country.
Makueni Livestock and Fisheries, Chief Executive Dr Martin Mboloi said the county developed the strategic plan for the elimination of human rabies, in collaboration with World Animal Protection, National Government and Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).
Mboloi said the objective of the programme is to demonstrate success before scaling it up to the rest of the country. The plan is to carry out mass vaccination targeting at least 70 per cent of the dog population annually, for three consecutive years as well as promoting population management comprising education, legislation, dog breeding control, dog pounds and controlling stray dogs.
The component also seeks to prevent rabies in humans by providing timely access to appropriate post-exposure treatment, which includes wound cleaning, vaccination and administering rabies immunoglobulin to cases suspected rabid.
So far in Makueni, the progress review indicates that elimination of rabies in dogs is well on course.
“The mass dog vaccination has gone smoothly for two complete years, (2016 and 2017), and this year 21 Wards are already vaccinated and 9 due in December. A total of 230,011 dogs have been vaccinated so far in the county,” said Mboloi.
The process involves holding a planning meeting at the county level, and dog sites identified. A programme for vaccination is then developed. This is followed by a one week publicity event through distribution of posters to schools, churches, a process that involves the chiefs and all administrators.
The vaccination is then carried out as programmed, complete with proper data collection and issuance of certificates.
To widen the reach, Mboloi said 60 teachers were trained as champions, who in turn trained 180 others from different primary schools across the county.
“All teachers trained as rabies champions are expected to identify three primary schools each, where they educate children on rabies as a disease, how to behave to avoid being bitten by a dog, importance of vaccinating dogs for rabies, dog bite wound management and responsible dog ownership,” explains Mboloi.
Transmission of rabies to humans is through a dog bite and to prevent it, the county in collaboration with department of health and Kemri have been availing PEP to dog bite victims at Makueni Level Four Referral Hospital.
“By increasing community awareness and education on rabies prevention and control and enhancing community participation in rabies control activities, there is considerable success in mobilising the community to provide their dogs for vaccination as seen in the over 60 per cent coverage,” he adds.
World Animal Protection Campaign Manager for Animals and Communities Emily Mudoga said the pilot is currently being undertaken in Makueni and Siaya while Machakos and Kitui are in the early stages of their programme.
By 2019, the second set of counties will be incorporated and have the programme running countrywide by 2020.
“There is a success story of Makueni, there were times when people were reporting many cases of rabies but this has gone down. We have seen how the lives of dogs have improved and more healthier,” explains Mudoga.