Doctors vaccinating a dog during the flag-off of 2023 free mass anti-rabies campaign programme at Igando-Ikotun LCDA on Wednesday in Lagos (NAN/PHOTO)
By Olayinka Olawale
The Lagos State Government has flagged off free anti-rabies vacination campaign and urged animal owners to keep their pets under strict control to avoid constituting nuisance or danger in the environment.
Ms Abisola Olusanya, state Commissioner for Agriculture, gave the advice at the flag-off ceremony of the 2023 free mass anti-rabies campaign at Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area on Wednesday in Lagos.
Olusanya said that the state governement would hold a four-week free anti-rabies vaccination for all pets owners.
Olusanya who was represented by Mrs Olatokunbo Emokpae, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said that vaccination certificates would be issued to pet owners after the exercise.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the campaign is: “Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths”.
It is orgainsed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under Regeional Diesaes Survellance Systems Enhancement.
She urged the general public to take advantage of this window of free vaccination programme being carried out simultaneously at the state government veterinary hospitals and clinics in all the divisions of the state to vaccinate their pets.
According to her, this is the third consecutive year of carrying out this laudable programme aimed at achieving the Global Strategy Plan for the elimination of dog-mediated human rabies death by the year 2030.
“The Lagos State Government being piloted under the leadership of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu leaves no one in doubt that we are at the forefront of the global target of eradicating rabies in the 21st century.
“This is so especially with the bill which regulates ownership, licensing, sales of pets as well as prohibiting and restricting people from having in custody dangerous animals in public places.
“Our goal once again is to achieve the global strategy plan on elimination of dogs mediated human rabies death by 2030.
“I am again using this mass campaign programme to urge all animal owners to be deliberate and intentional in keeping all their pets and animals under strict control so that they do not constitute any nuisance or danger to others in the environment,” she said.
Olusanya noted that rabies was a serious illness, a viral zoonotic disease that causes progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that almost result in death.
She said that the virus infects the central nervous system through its spread to people from the saliva of infected animals.
“According to the World Health Organisation, rabies is estimated to cause 59,000 human deaths annually in over 150 countries, with 95 per cent of cases occurring in Africa and Asia.
Ninety-nine per cent of rabies cases are dog-mediated and the burden of this disease is disproportionally borne by rural poor populations, with approximately half of the cases attributable to children under 15.
“An estimated 21,476 human deaths occur each year in Africa due to this disease.
“Rabies, however, a vaccine preventable disease and annual vaccination of susceptible animals especially dogs would lead to a drastic reduction of human cases.
“This, therefore, calls for the Lagos state annual free mass anti rabies vaccination exercise,” she said.
Mrs Olayinka Akeredolu, the State Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Oko-Oba, said the programne was orgainsed in collaboration with the department of Veterinary Services in Lagos Ministry of Agriculture.
Akeredolu urged participants at the programme to propagate that all dogs should be vaccinated against rabies.
She urged youths in the state not to play with animals they are not familiar with adding they may be unvaccinated and rabies carrier.
“I want to use the opportunity to tell the young ones, especially the youth not to play with any animal they are not familiar with.
“If you are not familiar with an animal, please, don’t play with it, run away from it. It may be very dangerous.
“Don’t play with any stray dogs or animals you see on the street because they may be unvaccinated.
“If you see any stray dog in your community, please report it to the relevant authority, we don’t want our people to die of needless death,” she said.
Dr Emmanuel Adeaga, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan (UI), said that it was worrisome that over 59,000 people die of rabies annually.
Adeaga, a Molecular Scientist and Vaccine Researcher, Centre for Control and Prevention of Zoonosis, UI, said that countries must work to reduce rabies deaths.
He said that over 4,303 years after rabies was first discovered, it was still causing deaths. He said that governments must have zero tolerance for rabies to reduce the trend.
He added that most of the pandemic in the world was caused by animal adding that people must be involved in happenings in their environment.
He called for collaborations between government agencies to reduce the deaths adding that even one death is too much.
“People should be interested in what goes on in their environment because the outcome will get to you.
“Don’t look away; be alert. Community involvement. Everything that is happening in your environment is your problem.
“The stray dog on the street is your problem, you must be concern of the status of your neighbors’ dog.
“Dogs don’t only bite their owners, they bite anybody, So all must be involve.
“A rabies free world is possible, it begins with me, it begins with you. None is safe until all is safe,” he said.
Dr Mark Ofua, Chairman, Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association, Lagos State Chapter, said that the association was proud to work with the government to drive this initiative to eradication of rabies.
Ofua said that the scourge of rabies was not a new phenomenal but one that the whole world was battling to eradicate.
“For people in the animal business, whenever they are transporting animal and they know that the animal is coming from Nigeria or from West Africa, they place a huge question mark.
“But if we come together and do it right, we can lift that scourge from Nigeria, we can lift scourge from Lagos and change the status-quo for us.
“It’s a beautiful thing that the government has taken this initiative, it goes to show that the government is taking the community health very important.
“The aim of the programme is to reach the nooks and crannies, all the interior places, wherever a dog is, the rabies vaccine should get there.
“Wherever there is a warm-blooded animal, be it dog, cat, there’s possibilities of rabies.
“We love our dogs very well, we interact we our dogs and I for one cannot imagine my life without a dog.
“How do I now protect the dog, protect myself, my children and my family; it is through initiate like this.
“It is not a matter of choice, it is a must, everyone must vaccinate their pets. We must do all we can, it begins with me, it begins with you,” he said.
Mr Lasisi Akinsanya, Chairman, Igando-Ikotun LCDA, urged residents of the area to take advantage of the exercise to vaccinate their dogs and cats, among others during the period.
Akinsanya thanked the state government for selecting the council for the flag-off, while assuring the council’s support to the success of the exercise.
Dr Anthonia Uti-Momah, Medical Officer of Health, Igando-Ikotun LCDA, said that a person who had been bitten by a dog must receive five shots of anti-rabies vaccine within 28 days of the incident.
Earlier, Dr Rasheed Macaulay, Director, Veterinary Services in the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, said that all dogs, cats, and monkeys must be vaccinated during the exercise in the state.
Macaulay said that the programme would feature lectures, health talk, awareness campaign and free vaccination and presentation of certificates.
NAN reports that the vaccination is expected to end on June 9.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma