Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Botswana records increment of rabies virus infections in humans

For the past few years, Botswana has recorded an increase in rabies virus infections among humans.

This was revealed by Dr Retta Ayele from the Francistown Health Management Team (FHMT) during the commemoration of the World Rabies Day in Francistown recently.

He said that reports that were brought to health facilities from all over the districts in Botswana from 2007 to 2011 have shown an increase, a situation which he said is disturbing.

“This can be explained by the better awareness of the community on the disease and better health seeking attitude,” he said.

Dr Ayele said that the trend shows that the number of cases exposed was 1262 in 2007 and dropped slightly to 1227 in 2009. He said that there was then an increase in 2010 from 1227 to 1382 and the figure rose to 1440 in 2010. He added that in 2011, the total number recorded was 1794, a figure which he said is very worrisome.

“If we segregate data in the districts, more populated districts like Francistown and Kweneng East had more cases in 2011. During this year there were 440 cases and 159 exposures reported from Kweneng East and Francistown,” he said.

Dr Ayelle revealed that children under 15 years of age are mostly affected by the disease and added that there is a strong need to teach them preventative measures.

He raised worries over the infections saying that a high number of deaths occur due to the disease in Asia and in Africa. He told participants that rabies is a disease that occurs mainly in remote rural communities where measures to prevent dog to human transmission have not been fully implemented.

“Underreporting of rabies also retards efforts to fight the disease,” he added.

One of the important issues he raised is that no tests are available to diagnose rabies infection in humans, adding that diagnosis can only be done if the rabies specific signs are present. He said such a challenge makes the clinical diagnosis difficult.

“Dogs are the main source of infections in all of the human rabies deaths annually in Asia and in Africa,” Dr Ayelle added.

He also said that transmission usually occurs when infectious material, mostly saliva, comes into direct contact with fresh wounds on humans. He added that human to human transmission through bites is theoretically possible but has never been confirmed.

Dr Ayelle advised that wound cleansing and immunization within a few hours after contact with a suspect rabid animal can prevent the onset of rabies and death.

“Every year, more than 15 million people worldwide receive a post exposure vaccination to prevent the disease. This is estimated to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths annually,” he added.

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