By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Makerere University: Rabies is a deadly but preventable viral disease that affects all warm-blooded animals and is widespread across Uganda. In Uganda, the disease is commonly transmitted by dogs when they bite someone. The disease remains one of the major public health concerns in Uganda.
Sorome Durr stated that this project is to be implemented in the districts of Kampala, Soroti and Kyegegwa. She said that currently the prevalence especially in Kyegegwa is not clear but the most important thing is that the reports show that there are a lot of roaming dogs around the district and within the other two districts where that project is going to be implemented.
Stakeholders in attendance duringthe launch. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa .
Important to note.
Globally canine rabies causes approximately 59,000 human deaths per year.
An average of 14,865 dog bites and 36 rabies deaths were registered annually from Uganda
between 2015 and 2020.
Over 90% of the rabies cases are transmitted via domestic dog bites.
Despite (Post Exposure Prophylaxis)- PEP being almost 100% effective, only 2 out of 10 people
World Health Organization recommends 70% dog vaccination for effective rabies control,
however only 10% of dogs in Uganda are vaccinated.
Making vaccination of dogs compulsory while targeting a 25% semi- annual vaccination
coverage would reduce rabies cases by 94% within 10 years.
Dr.Terence Odoi, the Principal Investigator of eRabies Surveillance project emphasized that one of the key issues of controlling and eliminating rabies is community sensitization because it is the communities living with dogs and yet dogs are primary sources of rabies.
Dr. Terence Odoi, the Principal Investigator of eRabies project. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
He revealed that about 90% of rabies is from dog bites so they were going to do community sensitization in all areas of operation in order to create awareness and control the disease.
He added that they were going to do surveillance by taking samples and support all activities
in collaboration with health centres.
He said, that the project has taken on some students with whom they are equipping with skills
that will be useful in project implementation and beyond.
Speaking after the launch early this week, Sorome Durr the Co- Principal investigator of eRabies project told journalists that rabies puts a high-risk to human especially when bitten. She said, it is ideal that if one got bitten, they quickly wash the wound with soap awaiting treatment/vaccine.
Professor Sorome Duer the Co- Principal investigator of eRabies project and Lecturer at the University of Bern presents before official launch of the project. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
Sarome stressed that about 60,000 people globally are killed by rabies and 90% of this comes from dog bites so it is important to target dogs for elimination of rabies so that they cannot further transmit the disease.
She said they want to target rabies science using the one health approach, linking cases in dogs with human bites understanding people’s perception on dogs, and dog management in order to enlist vaccination and increased knowledge about rabies .
She said awareness programs were to include programmes like theatre games and leaflets all aimed at increased knowledge of the people about the dangers associated with the disease.
“We also want to test vaccination strategies in dogs to establish whether there are some that are more accessible when done together with livestock vaccination and also diagnostics and see whether we have enough capacity to diagnose rabies”. Said Sorome.
Asked about the timeframe in which someone is entitled to Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), Sorome said that it is ideal that one accesses it immediately because as soon as one gets a bite, rabies goes straight to the immune system but ideally it is between one to two days.
Speaking after the launch of eRabies Project, Dr. Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor
in charge of Academic Affairs stressed that eRABIES was an most important project which means a lot to Makerere University since it is in line with its strategic
direction of being a research-led University.
He said it is one of the phases that is aiming at getting different stakeholders on board, owners of the dogs, local community awareness but also extending vaccination services to health centers given that most cases are found in rural setting.
He stated that Makerere University has put a lot of effort in partnerships. He encouraged the team to work towards timely realization of the set project output following which, successor projects can be written and funded.
“This doesn’t mean that we should not only get funding from the very funder but if we got to other funders, show what we have been able to do and how it feeds into another phase then they will be able to join in”., Said Dr. Kakumba.
He added that the University has access to the research and innovation fund from the government of Uganda to a tune of UGX30 Billion every year to foster innovative and impactful research so there can be multiyear support or projects that have been started.
Dr. Katumba Hannington, – a Veterinarian with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in charge of veterinary services stated that there are many looming dogs not only in Kampala but also the surrounding Districts of Wakiso and these make people susceptible to bites.
He said as KCCA, they vaccine these dogs ands well the conduct ‘spray neuter’ (family planning) in dogs aimed at reducing the population of dogs in Kampala, in addition to carrying out. ‘We also carry on sensitization and vaccination camps.
He said that at KCCA, they receive between 15-20 cases of dog bites.
Dr. Katumba revealed that, rabies is predominantly spread by dogs but not all dogs have rabies therefore when one gets a bite, a check up should be conducted first before treatment to ascertain whether one was infected or not.
About the project.
eRabies is a four-year project that started in September, 2022 being implemented in districts of Kampala, Soroti and Kyegegwa.
It is implemented by Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB), Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) in collaboration with Universities of Bern and Zurich from Switzerland.
The project is worth a half a million Swiss Francs funded by Swiss National Science Foundation.