Raise your hand if you have ever been bitten by a dog.
Raise your other hand if this dog that bit you has never been vaccinated against rabies.
Move to the left if the dog that bit you was a strange dog…..
A small boy, about six or seven lay in the hospital isolation room, with saliva drooling down the side of his mouth. Occasionally, he suffered a strong seizure that made his whole body tense and shake at the same time, before slipping into episodes of apparent calm. His mother sat by his side, with hands supporting her cheeks. Occasionally, she would stand and pace the room, raise her hands and place them over her head before finally walking back and taking her place beside her son. He later slipped into a coma, and as we all know, this story doesn’t end well. When he had shown up in their house one evening three months earlier with bite marks and scratch marks thanks to a neighborhood dog, they decided the bite was too small and just ignored it. Three months later, he presented with full blown rabies. (This is a true story).
September 28th is rabies awareness day. Incidentally, yesterday I saw a woman who had been bitten by a dog two days before she presented to the hospital. She was admitted for reasons other than the dog bite. But I had to bring up that “small matter” of a dog bite. She didn’t have money to buy the anti-rabies, she promised to look for the money. Meanwhile, we will just sit back and pray that she gets the money….before it is too late because rabies is real.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain), usually transmitted through a bite by a rabid animal.
Rabies is transmitted through a bite by a rabid animal, usually a dog. In my village, they are called t-nine, or mbwa wa kichaa. Other animals that can transmit rabies include monkeys, skunks, cats, wolves et cetera.
In the unfortunate event that an unvaccinated or a strange dog bites you, please make sure that you seek medical help. Go to the hospital and have the wound cleaned, get an anti- tetanus shot and get a dose of the anti- rabies vaccine. Now ideally, you should get five shots of the vaccine. The day you are bitten is the first time you get the vaccine. That is day zero. Then you should get a repeat shot on day three, day seven, day fourteen and day twenty-eight.
Of course most people rarely get the anti-rabies. The few who get it get a single dose on day zero and never return for the remaining doses. The issue is money constraints. The anti- rabies vaccine costs an average of one thousand five hundred shillings. Public hospitals almost always never stock it and most medical insurances don’t cater for it. So most people who present to the hospital end up skipping it altogether. The question is, if a dog bit you today, would you afford the anti- rabies vaccine right this moment? Maybe we should remind the forty seven county governments that they need to stock anti- rabies …
As a young girl growing up in the village, once in a while, we used to have mass vaccinations. A community vaccination of all domestic animals. I haven’t heard about them for a long time now. People are too broke vaccinating their domestic animals is the last thing on their mind.
Maybe the reason why we are a third world country is because we are still killed by diseases like rabies. Of all diseases that should kill us, rabies shouldn’t be one of them. But it is.
NB; on day zero, rabies immune globulin is administered together with the anti- rabies vaccine.