Operation Shoot To Kill Stray Dogs Looms In Harare

A Harare City official says killing stray dogs in the City is the best way to contain the growing burden of rabies.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

With 29 cases of dog bites in the third week of this year, Harare City head of epidemiology and disease control Dr Kudzai Masunda said Harare is now a rabies zone.

Just as a highlight,  week 3 of 2020, Harare is not a Malaria Zone but we also do treat Malaria. Watery diarrhoea we had 282. So our average in most cases is about 230 to 300 cases per week. Then blood diarrhoea is 15 suspected cases. Typhoid we had 15. Then dog bites we had 29 and I would like to remind all of us here that Harare is now a rabies zone,” he said.

He said they are considering shooting down dogs.

“So we should be advocating for shooting down. We can’t tranquilise the whole of Harare,” said Dr Masunda.

Dr Masunda said the anti-rabies vaccine for humans is very expensive.

“I think it’s better we vaccinate the dogs than the person against rabies. It’s cheap to vaccinate the dogs. But we do have some but it’s being abused. That’s the thing. Everybody bitten by a dog wants to have a vaccine even when the dog is vaccinated,” he said.

An official from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals said they had cases of people who succumbed to rabies.

“They didn’t get vaccinated because to them they had been shown certificates that the dogs were vaccinated. So it raised concern about the rabies vaccine.

“Some raised the concern that there may be dogs which are carriers. Not necessarily showing the signs and symptoms even if they get vaccinated but because you will be surprised that the person may be deceased but the dog is still there,” she said.

Weighing in on this issue of rabies, Ministry of Health and Child Care Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Dr Portia Manangazira concurred with Dr Masunda that a rabies vaccine is pricy.

“This is the reason why the public health act is very clear and city bylaws about management of animals in urban population settlements. None of our urban local authorities are abiding by that. They must ensure that pets kept in an urban locality are the correct number per property and that they are vaccinated.

“But we are a population that never takes precaution. We put people’s lives at risk. Now when you look at rabies, it’s one of those conditions that is incurable. If somebody gets rabies, we are hundred percent sure that you are going to die. But we still keep dogs roaming about as we speak. So it’s just a population that is very insensitive to preventive measures. Even when it’s largely within our control.

“But when we are going for vaccine, none of us in this room can afford the cost of antirabies vaccination. One dose is more than US$20 and you need more than four,” she said.

She added, “So I don’t understand where we lose it. We are very literate. We have professionals. We have people in high places but we let dogs roam all over the place and bite people.  So for me the connection still eludes me.

“When you are looking at something as serious as rabies, this is one of those conditions, for us as clinicians you know for cancers you can make some miraculous healing. You can be radiated and come back. But with rabies, you’re going to die.”

She took a swipe at neighbourhood watch committees.

“This dog population is within our control either through our streets. We have neighbourhood watch committees, what are they doing? Are they just scouting for thieves only and not looking at things that put people’s lives at risk.

“When you sub analyse the data on dogbites, it’s mostly our children again. So this is a country that is killing children. If they don’t die of diarrhoea, they are going to die of pneumonia, they are going to die of malnutrition, they are going to be bitten by a stray dog,” Dr Manangazira said.

Dr Manangazira said there was need to improve on refuse management.

“We don’t want to pick the rubbish. This is why a dog now in this country, whichever town it’s residing in, it doesn’t need a home. There is food everywhere because we throw away garbage and it’s there day after day. We are not even managing our refuse. It’s done for a reason to make sure that population health status is maintained. But we’re just not doing it. I have over the years been trying to get it but I just don’t get it,” she decried.

She said rabies is fatal a 100percent. “Wherever you are in this world, you are going to die if you get exposed to the rabies virus. It’s just going straight to your nervous system. And you are going to bark like a dog. You don’t just die. It’s one of the worst, terrible deaths. We as clinicians have handled death but this is one death you don’t want to be anywhere near. In some countries, they put that person in a cage because they are going to be a risk to other people. They are going to bark like a dog, bite other people like a rabid dog because they are rabid,” she said. “And we allow that to happen to one Zimbabwean after the other, after the other. I really have issues around that. I do. There is a lot we can do on the prevention side. By the time we are getting to the vaccine, we are getting complacent because we can’t afford it. We really need to think when we go back to say what am I doing to address this rabies burden. It’s really, really terrible and nobody is going to do it for us. We’re going to sort it out as Zimbabweans.”

Dr Manangazira said the country cannot continue asking for more vaccines which she finds unfair for global resources. “We mishandle our pets and then we ask for more medicines. Heh? What about prevention is better than cure? I think we should really sit down and talk about this even if it means we are going to present to our own councils. Let’s do this and remind them of their mandate. Let’s do it,” she said.



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