By Dr. Baluka Sylvia
Rabies is the most important zoonotic disease present in almost all continents and dog bites are responsible for 99% of all cases of human rabies via transmission to humans.
Rabies is a highly fatal viral disease of humans and all other warm blooded animals. In every 10 minutes, someone dies of rabies somewhere in the world and the disease claims nearly 55,000 human lives annually.
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is a member-based intergovernmental organisation created in 1924 and mandated to prevent and control animal diseases including zoonoses and their effects on veterinary public health and food safety.
OIE comprises of 178 member countries including Uganda and territories and maintains permanent relations with 45 other international and regional organisations.
It has regional and sub-regional offices on every continent. OIE has a global presence thus keeps abreast with disease situations around the world enabling timely disease reporting and control. OIE’s mandate was expanded in 2001 to include all issues regarding animal health and welfare and their impact on human health.
OIE’s mandate results in the net positive consequences in member countries such as alleviation of poverty and access to regional and international markets, improvements in food safety and animal welfare with benefits for a much wider population.
Over 75% of emerging and re-emerging diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, rabies and Avian Influenza are zoonotic (transmissible between animals and humans) and their successful prevention and control requires OIE support towards strengthening capacity in regards to technical aspects and expertise.
Domestic animals, wildlife and humans face similar health threats thus the relevance of the One Health platform, where OIE is plays an active role. The OIE provides science-based standards, guidelines and recommendations for the control of rabies in animals and prevention of spread of the disease through trade and by providing standards for diagnosis and preparation of vaccines for use in animals.
OIE’s role as the international standard setting organisation on animal health, zoonoses and animal welfare includes acting as an international reference body on the animal disease status of member countries who are obliged to provide timely and accurate animal disease information to the OIE as well as to respect the international standards and participate in their development, producing scientifically based standards for animal health and zoonoses, ensures transparency in the global animal disease and zoonoses situation, collects, analyses and disseminates relevant scientific information especially on disease control methods and animal welfare, provides expertise and encourages international solidarity in the control of animal diseases including zoonoses, for example, TB, Ebola, Avian Influenza, provides expert advice to interested member countries in the mediation of disputes on sanitary issues affecting trade, facilitates early detection and warning about intentional use of biological agents to disrupt trade in animals and animal products, or which have consequences for animal or public health thus helping to avert global threats of bio-terrorism, prevents the effects of zoonoses on veterinary public health including food safety and protecting the consumers globally.
OIE promotes the international coordination and cooperation required to control animal diseases worldwide and collaborates and cooperates closely with other relevant international bodies (FAO, WHO, WTO-SPS, CAC, CBD and ISO).
If Uganda is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of human rabies, major control interventions including vaccination and controlling the population of vectors, that is, dogs, especially the stray dogs, must be prioritised and funded.
Success of rabies control in Uganda will largely depend on the cooperation of dog owners and joint efforts of the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), veterinarians, the Police and local leaders to ensure that all dogs are vaccinated and the population of stray dogs does not increase.
The writer is a lecturer at the department of Veterinary Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University