The Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, on Thursday said that 1,500 Nigerians die of rabies-related disease yearly.
Dr Ayo Majekodunmi, National Coordinator, FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary and Animal Diseases, ECTAD, made this known during a symposium organised for students in Abuja.
The event was to commemorate the 2021 World Rabies Day with the theme “Rabies: Facts not Fear’’.
Mr Majekodunmi said that about 59,000 deaths worldwide are children who are at very high risk of contracting rabies, because they are most prone to getting bitten by dogs.
He said that dogs, cats, human beings, cattle, monkeys and any warm-blooded animal could be infected by rabies or could transmit it.
She said it is important to educate the children who are at risk to understand how the disease is transmitted, how it can be prevented and what they need to do if they are bitten by any animal that is suspected of rabies infection.
She said that rabies is 100 per cent preventable by vaccination.
“Apart from vaccinating our dogs and pets, human beings can also be vaccinated.
“We recommend the vaccination not only for dogs and other pets but also for human beings who are in professions where they are at higher risk, such as veterinarians, hunters and other people who are in contact with the animals,’’ she said.
Mr Majekodunmi said that there is also another type they call the post-exposure vaccination.
“This is the treatment that you get if you have been bitten by a dog or any other animal suspected to have rabies.
“The bite should be immediately washed with soap and water for 15 minutes to wash out the saliva of the animal and the rabies virus.
“Also immediately seek medical care to prevent getting infected with the disease,’’ she said.
Speaking on the accessibility of the vaccine, while noting that rabies vaccine is mostly available in general hospitals and primary health care centres, she lamented that Nigeria does not have much of the vaccine.
She however reiterated the need to improve on the amount of vaccines that is available in the country.
She urged people to be sensitised on how rabies is transmitted and what they can do to prevent it.
“Because once we know the fact, know the tools that we need to keep ourselves and our animals safe, we no longer need to fear rabies’’, she said.
Dr Olaniran Alabi, Director of Veterinary and Pest Control Services of FMARD, in his remarks, said that the department would continue to support states with vaccines.
He said that the department would also support other resources to meet the target of eliminating dog-mediated human rabies by the year 2030 as set by WHO, OIE and FAO.
Mr Alabi said the symposium was important to enlighten school ambassadors because it would help them pass on the information among their peers as children are the most vulnerable group.
“The disease thrives in low to middle-income countries of Africa and Asia affecting mostly children due to ignorance.
“In Nigeria, over one million persons are at risk of exposure to the rabies virus through dog bite as the majority of them are unlicensed, unvaccinated and allowed to roam freely,’’ he said.
World Rabies Day is marked annually across the globe on Sept. 28.
NAN reports that FAO in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has sensitised students from 13 public and private secondary schools across FCT.