Karonga registers three rabies related deaths

Karonga District has in July 2023 registered three rabies related death after the deceased were bitten by suspected rabid dogs.

Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Officer for Karonga District Hospital, Raymond Jereni said the deceased are a 25-year-old woman and two boys aged 5 and 11.

“This is a concern for us. We did not register any deaths related to rabies in the past two years. But we have already registered more than 15 dog bite cases within this month,” Jereni said.

He added that there is an increase in number of the bites as 245 cases were registered in 2022 and have already recorded 230 just in half a year.

“We have during our surveillance exercises observed that there are a lot of unreported dog and pet bite cases. This is risky because we still have around many dogs and pets that are not vaccinated,” he said.

According to World Health Organisation statistics in Malawi, nearly 500 people die each year due to rabies and out of more than 400 000 dogs in the country, only half of them get vaccinated against rabies annually.

Principal Animal Health and Livestock Development Officer for Karonga District Agriculture Development Division, Michael Mapundi said some pets were missed during mass rabies vaccination campaign which was conducted in March and April this year,

Dogs being vaccinated during a mass rabies vaccination campaign

He said many people who have pets such as dogs don’t vaccinate them against rabies, hence infesting the district with stray dogs roaming around health facilities, market places, schools and offices, among others.

Mapundi said normally, it takes a month or more before signs and symptoms of rabies disease start manifesting after being bitten by a rabid suspected pet.

Director of Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources for Karonga District Council, Raphael Mkisi said dogs and pets are supposed to be vaccinated every year.

Mkisi said there are over 10,000 dogs in Karonga and that due to limited resources, his office manages to vaccinate 4000 representing 40 against the recommended percent.

He appealed to people to be reporting immediately to any nearby veterinary office whenever they are bitten by any pet for a reference letter for them to be treatment at their nearby health facilities.

Globally, rabies has the highest mortality rate.

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