The aim of the study was to assess the risk rabies constitutes to the public in Plateau State. Despite the existence of regulations on antirabies vaccination, dog movement and population control (WHO, 1997; WHO, 2004), rabies remains a public health problem in Nigeria. Most reported cases of rabies deaths in humans and canines are associated with unvaccinated dogs, and the infection could be prevented through appropriate vaccination as recommended by the law of the state. This research established the canine rabies vaccination coverage of Plateau State. The status of human rabies, canine rabies and mitigation strategies for control of rabies were also determined. A total of 760 cases were recorded; n=5 (0.66%) cases of human rabies, n=751 (98.8%) in dogs and n=4 (0.5%) in cats in the study period (1998-2007). Research indicated a low prevalence of human rabies in Plateau State which may be attributed to under-reporting, although showing 100% cases of recorded human rabies were due to dog exposure, a high status of canine rabies in the state with a prevalence rate of >59% with a sharp increase in the rate of occurrence of canine rabies in the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The high level of occurrence persisted in 2005, 2006 and 2007 indicating its endemicity in the state. All the purposively selected ten local government areas visited indicated occurrence and passive canine rabies control surveillance in the state, with a canine rabies vaccine coverage of 10.57%. Informal interviews with medical doctors in the state and members of the public showed that citizens at risk of contracting rabies do not go for the pre-exposure prophylactic treatments. It appears that many of the citizens of Plateau State still see rabies as ‘insignificant’ and do not take serious measures to prevent or control the occurrence of the disease in the state. During the study n=72 purposively selected citizens of the state were interviewed. Of these, n=9 persons indicated they were ignorant of the disease, n=25, said that they would not vaccinate their dogs because it changed the taste of dog meat and affected the canine teeth of hunting and protection dogs. Only n-23 always vaccinated their dogs for preventive purposes, because they had heard about the disease and wanted their dogs and themselves to be safe, this group appeared to be pet dog owners. Also, n=15 persons could not remember vaccinating their dogs. An aggressive enlightenment campaign should be carried out to create awareness of the endemicity of rabies in the state and of the importance of post-exposure prophylaxis in people bitten by dogs, as this does not seem to be happening. There appears to be a lack of record keeping and this deficiency must be made a priority in order to do effective surveillance and control of canine rabies in Plateau State. It was also recommended that there is a need for active and effective collaboration between veterinarians, medical doctors and environmental specialists to help control and prevent the occurrence of rabies in Plateau State. Veterinary extension and communication strategies were used to develop risk communication and risk mitigation and were demonstrated by the preparation of posters and pamphlets appropriate for use in Plateau State Nigeria. Copyright
Dissertation (MSc (Veterinary Science))--University of Pretoria, 2010.