Rabies sparks mass vaccinations

A man in the Omusati Region had a lucky escape after being bitten by a rabid donkey, as the animal's teeth did not break the skin.

14 February 2019 | Health

A 22-year-old man from Omayuuda village in the Ogongo area of the Omusati Region is under medical observation after being bitten by a donkey infected with rabies.

The Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) has offered free vaccinations for livestock and pets in the area, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.

The DVS vaccinated 246 donkeys, 412 cattle, 68 dogs and 35 cats at Omayuuda on Tuesday.

Unfortunately 18 donkeys from the infected kraal were not taken for vaccination by the owner. Josef Kamati was bitten on the evening of 22 January while walking from the Omayuuda cuca shops to his home.

Kamati told Namibian Sun on Tuesday that it was around 20:00 when he found a donkey eating grass. It attacked and bit him.

“Just when I passed the donkey it followed me and bit me on the right thigh. I fell down and it came again trying to bite me in the stomach. I took out my pocket knife and stabbed it several times so it could leave me, but it just continued attacking me. I started screaming and people from the cuca shop came to my rescue,” Kamati said.

“There is no wound where it bit me but my thigh is swollen until today. I went to the hospital the following day and until today I am under doctor's care.”

A state veterinarian from Outapi, Dr Laina Hango, said the incident was reported to them on 23 January and when they visited the area they ordered that the donkey be put to death, as it was displaying rabies symptoms.

“We sent the head to a laboratory in Windhoek for testing. On 24 January we were informed that the donkey tested positive. We communicated that to the owner and informed her to buy anti-rabies vaccine, so that we come help her vaccinate her donkeys, but she never did that,” Hango said.

“Since the owner did not obey our instruction we decided to come vaccinate all the cattle, goats, cats and dogs in the village. The community responded, but to our disappointment the owner of the donkey failed to bring her donkeys.”

Hango said rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease that affects mammals and can be transmitted to people. It can be deadly if not treated early.

She said in the past, dogs were the main source of human rabies deaths until the rabies elimination programme was introduced, and now cattle and goats are the most prominent carriers.

She said usually government does not offer free vaccination of livestock, only for cats and dogs. She said since the issue at Ogongo was of concern they decided to respond.

“We do not know where that donkey got the virus from and how many other donkeys it had bitten. We have to protect the area, people and animals. The owner has 18 donkeys, but did not bring them for vaccination. We communicated to her and informed her how important it is to have her donkeys vaccinated. We will, however, make sure they are vaccinated,” Hango said.

During an education programme, which took place alongside the vaccinations, Hango informed the community that people bitten by rabies-infected animals must receive medical attention soonest.

She said the incubation period for rabies is typically two to three months.

“Initial symptoms of rabies include a fever with pain and unusual or unexplained tingling, pricking or a burning sensation (paraesthesia) at the wound site. As the virus spreads to the central nervous system, progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord develop,” she said.

ILENI NANDJATO

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