Lagosians at risk of fatal dog attacks
•State Harbours About 2.5m Dogs
• Five Cases, Three Deaths In Two Years
Incidence of dog attacks and death from Rabies disease is on the rise in the country, especially in Lagos State, where the issue is gradually assuming status of public health hazard.
In the last two years, over five cases were recorded across the state, resulting in the death of three people and several others left with multiple injuries.
In August 2014, two young promising Nigerians-21 year old Aishat Opakunle and 14 year-old James Makwa Musa, both of Mologede Estate, Meiran, were both bitten by the same dog and died shortly after showing cardinal signs of rabies in man.
The state chapter of Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) was able to establish the case by exhuming the remains of the dog that bit the two victims and conducted forensic investigation at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, Jos, where the dog was confirmed rabid.
A 45-year old commercial driver, Saturday Akpomose was attacked by seven dogs in Ajah area, while visiting a relative. Though he survived the attack, it left him with multiple injuries.
In Igando area, two Alsatian dogs bit off almost the entire scalp, of a five year-old boy, Odion, when he was fiercely attacked, leaving the poor boy with scars of a lifetime.
In February 2015, nine year-old Moyinoluwa Banwo, was attacked by a neighbour’s dog in Ibafo, which also left him with multiple injuries.
The latest is the case of a five year- old Jomiloju Odukomaya, who died as a result of dog bite in Ajegunle, Ikorodu area last August. He was attacked and bitten by a suspected rabid dog, allegedly owned by one Mr. Rufus Olaniyan of Olaniyan Estate, Irawo, Ajegunle in Ikorodu area of the state.
Before his death, The Guardian learnt the boy manifested cardinal signs of rabies in man, like seizures, hydrophobia, change in tone and later barked till he died, as a result of which he even bit his mother, putting her and the lactating child at the risk of the dreaded disease.
These are just few of recorded cases, as so many cases were not brought to public limelight, but have caused pain and agony to families.
It is estimated that Lagos State alone harbours about 2.5 million dogs, for various purposes, ranging from security to companionship and breeding, raising incidence of attacks and its resultant effect of contacting rabies.
Rabies is one of other deadly diseases, but often overlooked. It is a highly fatal disease, known to kill 99.9 per cent of its victims once they begin to show the clinical signs.
United Nations (UN) figures put death toll from rabies at 59,000 annually. These deaths occur mainly in Africa and Asia (poor regions of the world), but the irony is that rabies is not only highly preventable, it can also be eradicated, and many countries of the world have been declared rabies free by a conscious effort of the government and relevant stakeholders.
According to veterinary experts, once a person is bitten, the victim has indirectly signed his or her death warrant, as the incubation period of rabies in man can be between one to three months and may also be as much as one year, depending on the site of bite and the viral load at bite.
As seen in most cases, victim of rabies would take ill, until they begin to manifest cardinal signs of rabies, such as pica, fever, seizures, paralysis, hydrophobia, jaw dropping with drooling of saliva, inability to swallow, change in tone or barking, then death becomes almost inevitable.
As deadly as the disease is, it is unfortunate that very few laboratories in Nigeria have the equipment and capabilities to definitely diagnose rabies. According to chairman of the Lagos Chapter of NVMA, Dr. Alao Mobolaji, only few teaching hospitals, veterinary teaching hospitals in universities, and National veterinary research institute (NVRI) Jos, Plateau have the ability to diagnose rabies.
Another sad news is that not all hospitals can treat rabies, because many of them, especially the private ones are not adequately informed about rabies treatment or management, reason why they often times refer victims of dog bite to a veterinary clinic for “anti-rabies vaccination.”
The 34 year-old mother of Jomiloju Odukomaya, Mrs. Patience Odukomaya, who recounted her agonising experience to The Guardian said his son was just sent to buy biscuit at a nearby shop, when he was attacked.
The boy was taken to the hospital and few days after the wound healed. But two weeks after, he was running temperature and taken back to the hospital, where he was given injection. It was at the General Hospital a test was conducted test, where he was diagnosed of Rabies disease.
“We were referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), we took him there, but because it was too late to know the real cause of the sickness, he died on September 18, 2016 at the hospital.”
She said her son manifested all the cardinal signs of rabies in man, and barked till he died.
“I saw the owner of the rabid dog few days ago, he just told me sorry madam, while I am suffering for an act that was avoidable. I know the dog that bit my son; it is still there with three others, because the man has four dogs.
“Justice must prevail because my son must not die in vain. I am calling on the state government, rights groups and individuals to assist me so that my vibrant, innocent boy will not die in vain,” she pleaded.
Are there ways to identify dogs that carries rabies? Often times it is difficult to identify a rabid dog, because the signs manifest in stages, according to Mobolaji, but most times there are basic signs to tell if a dog is rabid. There are three basic stages a rabid dog undergoes. The first is the “dull stage”, this is the stage the affected dog suddenly becomes dull and uninterested in anything that goes on in its immediate surrounding, it just seats in one corner and looks on the whole day.
The second stage is the “furious stage” this is the stage when the affected dog becomes hyper active, fierce and furious. At this stage, the dog attacks everything within its reach-living and non-living objects and also attempts to bite at them. This stage is most often easily recognisable, and people must stay away from such dog in this condition.
The last stage is the “paralytic stage” when the affected dog withdraws and becomes paralysed. Its jaw drops and it begins to drool saliva, becomes hydrophobic (fear of water) and ultimately dies. These stages last between nine days and eight weeks.
To avoid dog bite, Mobolaji said it is necessary for parents to educate their children on the need to be cautious when around strange dogs, especially male children and restrain them from playing with just any dog in the neighborhood, because they get excited when they see dogs and naturally want to play with them.
“Adults on the other hand, can avoid dog bite by also keeping away from strange dogs, they should not unnecessarily excite dogs they come in contact with. Necessary precautions should be taken when entering a house where dogs are kept for security purposes. Visitors should insist on owner first restraining their dogs before entering such premises. Also, dog owners that walk their dogs on the streets should ensure that such dogs are properly leashed, and trained enough to be able to obey basic commands while on such walk.
“It is the responsibility of every dog owner to ensure the periodic vaccination of their pets against rabies disease. Most rabies vaccination as we know protect for at least one year. It is also important that dog owners patronise qualified veterinary professionals for their dog vaccination as a number of quacks who pose as veterinarians end up rendering poor services that expose the dog owner, their family members and members of the public to unnecessary danger and needless losses. Our association has embarked on a project that will help members of the public via their smartphones authenticate the qualification of anyone they seek for their service as a veterinarian. This we will be made available in the shortest time possible.”
He noted that dog owners can get their dogs immunized against rabies for as low as N3, 000, which serves for a whole year, adding that if government provides vaccines at their clinics, it may even be cheaper.
“I guess some families cannot afford the cost of the vaccines. My advice to such families is to avoid keeping dogs.”
While some people are not just aware that there is anything called vaccination for dogs, hence the need to increase awareness campaigns to ensure everybody knows what they need to know.
“As zoonotic disease (diseases that can be transmitted from animal to man and vice versa) issues about rabies will only get more and more important in the days ahead. This is mainly because humans and animals are sharing increasing closer quarters. We would want to press upon our legislators to look into existing dog laws and other animal laws, as what we have presently do not address contemporary challenges. We believe a stitch in time saves nine.”