ARUA. Arua district leaders have agreed to enact ordinances and by-laws at the district and sub-county levels in an effort to eradicate rabies in the area.

The leaders said once ordinances and by-laws are put in place, people will be forced to restrain their dogs and pets from roaming in the public.

The local leaders made the commitment during the commemoration of the World Rabies Day at Vurra sub-county headquarters in Vurra County, Arua district on Tuesday.

The day marked under the theme: Rabies - “Spread facts, not fear” was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Food and Agricultural Organization, and Arua district local government among other partners.

During the function, officials from the ministry vaccinated and castrated dogs and cats in a bid to minimize the spread of the disease in the district.

“Today we are celebrating this world rabies day and our major theme is to end this rabies in our communities by 2030. As a Local Government, we are going to introduce or put in place by-laws at sub-county level; sustainability. We have celebrated this day and people have brought their dogs here for vaccination, but we want sustainability,” Jude Mark Bukenya, the Arua district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said.

“When I was in Wakiso in September last year, that particular sub-county where we had a similar occasion, the town clerk had to put in place a by-law and up to now, I think they are moving on very well. So, the same applies here in Vurra, I would request my politicians to also put in place a by-law in this sub-county and at the same time, since my Speaker of the district is here, please we need to come up with an ordinance for the district. With that we shall be ending rabies in our district,” Bukenya advised.

According to Dr. Willy Nguma, the Arua district veterinary officer, Arua district is endemic to rabies just like other districts of West Nile region.

“The disease we are suffering from is dog mediated rabies. That means most infections come through bites from dogs that are in many cases suspected to be infected by rabies. I also want to point out clearly that not every bite of a dog will result in infection, but also I want people to know and understand that not only dogs and cats can spread rabies because even pigs, goats and sheep which are infected are likely to spread rabies,” Nguma said.

However, he noted that rabies is 100 percent preventable and it is where all people’s hearts have to settle.

Nguma observed that in the greater Arua district (Arua City, Terego and Arua districts), every month, they receive reports of animal bites ranging from an average of 25 to 35 cases.

“The implication is that every one other day, there are people who come to report cases of animal bites. The situation has improved; I think people are now getting conscious that every animal bite must be reported to a responsible authority. I must say I am happy about that,” Nguma said.

“In the month which ended August, we had a total of 187 animal bite cases reported, remember some go unreported. Most of these cases are children that are school-age-going below the age of 14 years. We lose one human being to rabies every other two months. Since this year began in January, in Lugiri sub-county alone, we lost 3 people because they were bitten and instead of seeking medical attention, people thought it was witchcraft and crossed to DR Congo but when they came back, it was already late and the people died,” Nguma explained.

MAAIF IAn official from MAAIF prepares to vaccinate a dog at Vurra sub-county headquarters on Tuesday. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI

Alfred Okuonzi, the Arua district chairperson said as a district, time has come for them to take action to prevent rabies in the area.

“As a district, we will remain committed to the goal of eradicating rabies as a public health threat by 2030. As CAO mentioned, we will go down and develop ordinances and again we call the sub-county leadership to develop by-laws at sub-county level to restrain the stray dogs that bite people. I think no dog will go and bite you from your bedroom. So, let’s restrain these stray animals, including pets,” Okuonzi said.

Dr. John Opolot, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Veterinary Public Health and Zoonosis in the Ministry of Health said with rabies, a person will bark like a dog, the person can’t chew, the saliva will flow out of the mouth and the anal opens as signs and symptoms people shouldn’t associate with witchcraft.

He called for awareness among the members of the public about the disease so that they can desist from believing in the myths associated with it.

Similarly, Dr. Anna Rose Okurut, the Commissioner in charge of Animal Health in MAAIF urged people to always report animal bites and suspected rabies cases in animals and humans to the veterinary and other health officers including local leaders for timely management.