Health practitioners in Moyale, Marsabit County have raised the alarm over emergence of rabies in the area, with at least 20 people reported to have died after suffering from the disease in the past two years.
Moyale Sub-county Health Officer Racha Tacho said there were concerns that the disease might continue to spread, because residents were neither going for vaccination nor seeking medical attention when infected.
“This disease is silently killing our people. The problem is that our people seek treatment from traditional healers, worsening the situation,” he said last week.
“The number of those infected has been rising. Recently somebody who had been infected bit another person, infecting him with the disease,” he added.
The challenge in Moyale, according to Mr Tacho, is that there are so many stray dogs, owing to the nomadic nature of the pastoralist community.
“Dogs are reared even by children and it is hard to control them. What we are doing right now is to try and sensitise the community by asking them to come for vaccination.
“We have vaccines in our health centres but uptake is low,” he said.
Rabies is a viral disease spread through the bite or scratch by an infected animal. Its incubation period ranges from two to three weeks, and by the time symptoms appear it is usually too late to save the patient. Symptoms include neurological problems and a fear of light and water.
The virus affects the body by entering the peripheral nervous system (PNS) before migrating to the brain. It also replicates within muscle tissue, where it is safe from the host’s immune system. From there it enters the nervous system through the neuromuscular joints.
Once inside the nervous system, the virus causes acute inflammation of the brain resulting in a coma and eventually death.
However, a patient who has been exposed to rabies can be treated successfully if he or she seeks help in time.