In Luanda, the capital of Angola, at least 93 children have died from rabies. They contracted the disease from stray dogs in the community.
A World Health Organization official called for action, “The high number of deaths in Luanda within the short period of time is a cause for serious concern and calls for a thorough investigation.”
The reason for the high number of deaths was mainly that there was not enough vaccine on hand to deal with the sudden increase in disease cases. Treatment for rabies must be admininstered very soon after an animal bite, or it may not prevent death. Children are more likely to play with stray dogs, and less likely to report being bitten, because of their lack of disease awareness.
The hospital in Luanda now has enough vaccine in stock, and the number of cases is declining. Treating rabies there costs about $50 US dollars because five $10 dollar doses are needed, which is slightly more than a whole family might earn in one month. Luanda also was intended to have a human population of less than 500,000 but now has over 4,000,000 some of whom live in less than hygienic conditions which can exacerbate disease spreading.
95% of all rabies deaths annually occur in Africa and Asia. In Africa about 24,000 people die each year from rabies. The number in Asia is estimated to be 31,000. As many as 60% of the deaths in those continents are children. Most of the rabies transmissions are canine to human. Dogs can actually be vaccinated for rabies, and do not be destroyed unless they are rabid.
Recent research has indicated it may be possible to eradicate rabies globally.
Image Credit: Silje L. Bakke, GNU Free Documentation License