Rabies, a Serious Disease in Yemen [Archives:2000/31/Health]

July 31 2000

Rabies is a serious disease. It is wide spread in Yemen. It equally affects both the animals and people. Radhwan Al-Saqqaf, Aden Bureau Chief met Veterinary Surgeon, Dr. Omer Al-Kaff, and had the following interview with him:
Q. May you please tell us something about rabies?
A. It is a serious infectious disease jointly affecting both animals and people. It is spread throughout the third world countries including Yemen. It infects all animals which carry hot blood particularly dogs and cats. However, wolves, foxes, monkeys and bats also transmit this disease from one place to another. In order to safeguard human, life many countries in the world have taken measures to combat this disease by destroying stray and hostile dogs. Rabies is caused by a virus which is transmitted through bite. Another reason is infection of skin ulcer by animal saliva. The period of incubation differs from one animal to another; the same also applies to human being. In dogs and cats it is from three days to six weeks during which symptoms of the disease appear. Normally, it is a short period. Other animals’ incubation period is longer and ranges from nine to ninety days. In human beings the period varies between ten days to six months. As the effect of the bite approaches the brain, incubation period reduces. Symptoms in a dog is almost similar to that of other animals. These are characterized by three stages:-
The first is known as Quiet Rabies where an animal rests in a peaceful and quiet place. Within 24-48 hours his actions and activities reduce. This period passes unchecked. One has to be careful because infection could occur to any wound through the saliva of the animal.
The second is Furious Form which is accompanied by nervous tension and hostility. The animal loses the power of distinguishing and attacks and bites anything which appears before him or obstructs his way. The most important symptom at this stage is that the animal starts fearing water Ñ hydrophobia Ñ and air. He stops taking in any food or liquid. Finally the animal bites itself causing killing injuries which within 5-7 days takes him to the third stage.
The third stage Dump Form is an extension of the second stage. The animal suffers muscular fits (convulsion) and dies within 48 hours.
Q. What are the symptoms when someone gets the rabies?
A. The symptoms start with a desire to keep on chewing followed by headache and fever and general weakness as well as to itch in the bitten area. Fits occur in the pharynx muscles while drinking. The rabid fears water and air. Even the mention of water makes him afraid. This is followed by hallucination and contraction of muscles. The rabid dies within 2-6 days.
It is impossible to cure a rabid after the appearance of the symptoms.
A preventive vaccine has been invented for both animals and human beings, but it is very expensive. Unfortunately rabies is spread in many parts of Yemen; mainly in Sana’a. Positive and negative conditions are high.
Q. Is rabies confined to hot-blood animals only?
A. No. Spread of rabies does not threaten the life of animals only but it also threatens the life of human beings. It is a pity to see that not much care is given to this issue by destroying stray dogs and hostile animals. Through the pages of this newspaper, I appeal to all official and non-official authorities as well as the citizens to cooperate, carry out prompt initiatives and take all necessary measures to combat this serious disease. I have some important suggestions which could help in combating and eradicating this disease. These are:-
1- The ministries of Agriculture , Interior, Health and Construction should cooperate among themselves and create a department or a special project for fighting this disease in Yemen. Through cooperation with international organizations a first-aid system should be established by providing medicines which an ordinary patient cannot afford owing to their high prices.
2- To support the central veterinary laboratory for testing rabies and to expand it. Laboratories should be set in other provinces as well A carry out large-scale and continuous campaigns to destroy stray dogs and hostile animals.
3- Avail preventive vaccines for both animals and human beings.
4- Disseminate awareness programs intensively on the dangers of rabies and ways to avoid it and eradicating it.
5- Owners of pet dogs and cats should vaccinate their animals against rabies. They should always check their health as they live with us in our houses, gardens and compounds.
6- Pet trainers of un-vaccinated animals while petting their dogs and cats should not put their hands into the mouth of such animals. This safety measure is necessary no matter how beloved the animal is. It is the saliva which can constitute a danger if infected.