Rabies ravages Chivi

There is an outbreak of rabies in Chivi district, with reports that a number of people have been bitten by rabies-infected dogs. There are fears that the district’s sole referral health centre is running out of rabies treatment.

Senior officials in the ministry of health and childcare confirmed the outbreak and said they had sent medical teams to the hardest-hit areas of Chivi. No deaths had been recorded so far.

“We received reports that Chivi hospital was being over whelmed by patients seeking rabies treatment, a situation that hadled to a shortage of the antidote at the hospital,” said an official in the ministry.

“Cases are rampant in the Berejena area and the surrounding areas. We have dispatched mobile clinics to administer the drugs to the most remote areas, although there was a shortage of the drugs early in the week. The ministry is working flat out to ensure we supply adequate drugs for the district.”

The source said they were currently working with officials from the department of veterinary service to determine the cause of the sudden rise of rabies cases in the district and to curb the disease before it spread to other districts.

Blantina Berejena, a villager whose young brother was bitten by a rabies-infected dog said: “I know of at least 10 people have been bitten by rabies infested dogs and among them is my little brother. I also saw a two year old girl who had been bitten by the dogs on the same day.”

She added that they took her brother to Morgenster mission hospital and Masvingo general hospital, where they were told the rabies antidote was not available. They were referred to a pharmacy.

Rabies is a preventable disease and the World Health Organisation (WHO) says around 60,000 people die annually despite the availability of the tools to prevent and manage the disease.

Children are the most affected by the disease, with four out of every ten deaths by rabies being a child under the age of 15.

In Zimbabwe, rabies antidotes are available in private hospitals and clinics, and in some pharmacies. Prices range between $25 and $45. The vaccines are free in public hospitals, but supply is not always guaranteed.

WHO said that, in 2012, only two human rabies cases were confirmed by the Veterinary Research and Diagnostics Laboratory in Harare, while 11,959 people were reported to be bitten by dogs.

Despite an increase of the number of samples sent to the laboratory for testing in recent years, WHO said rabies surveillance is considered to be unsatisfactory.

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