Rabies kills 6 in Kiruhura District.

ImageBy Alex Taremwa

Residents of the Kiruhura district are trembling in fear as rabies infested dogs have bitten and killed 6 people, with 2 others currently in critical condition.

The horrific death of an 11-year-old boy on 19 Oct 2013 in Meru-Meru, a village in Nkungu Sub-county, brought the total number of deaths related to rabies to 6 within 5 days. According to an eyewitness, when the boy was brought to Buremba hospital, he was literarily barking like a dog and acting hostilely.

He said that because the case had advanced, the medical personnel could not offer any help except to dose him with tranquilizers just to ease the pains. His parents, out of frustration however, took the child home, where he died later the same day.

According to a health official, 2 people from Kitamba, a border community in the district, reported with cases of rabies on 20 Oct 2013 but were asked to go and buy the drug (vaccine) from Ibanda for treatment. The victims could not afford the drug and so had to return home to await their painful death.

According to the official, anti-rabies vaccine sold in the open market costs around Ushs 175,000, an amount too costly for most people living in deprived communities such as Buremba. An official at the hospital who pleaded anonymity alleged that because the vaccine is expensive, some officials are hoarding the drug as a way of making money for themselves.

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Dr. Moses Mutiikuuzi, a professional veterinary doctor explained that the symptoms of rabies are as follows. Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

“The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization,” he said.  Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease.

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