February 23, 2009

Angola Rabies Problem Is Serious

Angolan health officials warned on Monday that further efforts are required to prevent the spread of rabies, which has killed 82 children in Luanda, more than 20 of them in the last two weeks.

"In 30 years I have never seen as many cases as this. I think we have to do a lot more about the circulation of dogs in the city," Luis Bernardino, director general of Luanda's Bernardino pediatric hospital, told AFP.

Rabies is transmitted to humans through the saliva of an infected animal that bites them.

"It is important that we learn a lesson from this. We need to reorganize the veterinary service to have better surveillance over the disease and the animals," he said.

The hospital has received 83 children with rabies since November, he said, all but one of whom had died.  Last week, 13 cases were received, with 10 admitted the previous week, he said.  All of the victims were children, mostly aged 3 to 10, who came from the overcrowded, poor areas surrounding the capital city --an area rife with packs of stray dogs.

Authorities vaccinated more than 100,000 animals in the capital last month, the have been collecting stray dogs and cats from the street.

Angola emerged from 30 years of conflict in 2002, and is now using its oil and diamond wealth to rebuild the nation.  However, social indicators remain poor despite its vast natural resources.  According to figures from the United Nations Children's Fund, the former Portuguese colony has one of the worst child mortality rates anywhere the world, with more than 25 percent of its children dying before their fifth birthday.