Dr Emmanuel Kwao Pecku, Tema West Municipal Veterinary Officer, has advised that people wash wounds immediately with soap and detergent when bitten or scratched by an animal, particularly dogs.
"This is the first emergency care to prevent rabies. Rabid-animals, especially dogs, over the period, had bitten their owners or people around and resulted in human cases, thus, considerable care was needed as a first aid step requiring that water was used to flush the wound thoroughly for about 15 minutes," he said.
Dr Pecku who also has oversight responsibilities in the Tema Metropolitan and Kpone Municipal said, washing the wounds immediately was a critical step before pre-exposure vaccination was administered and it helps in preventing rabies-related deaths.
Dr Pecku, who was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Tema, said rabies was viral zoonotic disease, which caused progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and affected animals and humans globally including Ghana.
He said: "if a dog is infested by rabies, the virus multiplies in the nerves and goes into the salivary glands and is excreted as saliva, so if an infested dog or cat bites or scratches you, it creates an opening and the virus passes through the saliva and goes into your body".
However, "when first aid is undertaken instantaneously, it reduces the amount of virus that reaches the body before the victim gets professional medical attention, thereby increasing their chances of survival."
According to Dr Pecku, the signs would begin to show depending on the amount of virus released at the wounded site, and the closeness of the spinal or the brain, and explained that, for the first week, the virus would multiply and further result in debilitating effects.
"That is why we advise that as a first aid, when you have a dog bite, the wounded area is washed thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of virus at the site of bite," he said.
The Veterinary Officer said 99 per cent of rabies were acquired from the bites of an infected dog, and noted that, although rabies was 100 per cent fatal once clinical signs appeared, it was avoidable through vaccination to prevent deaths.
"Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99 per cent of all rabies transmissions to humans," he emphasised.
He said risk of rabies was especially high in communities with large stray dog population, adding that such free-roaming dogs played a major role in spreading rabies among animal and human populations.
He, therefore, appealed to dog owners to make their dogs available to be vaccinated at designated centres in the ongoing vaccination exercise across the Tema Region.
The Tema West Municipality has reported four cases of rabies in three dogs and a goat at Community Five over a ten-month period with an increase in dog bite cases of 151 from January to July, 2021.