Background: According to the recommendation made by World Health organization, vaccinating 70% of the dog population helps to control rabies and prevent rabies virus in human population. However, the exponential increase in the population of free roaming dogs is a serious challenge to this strategy in Eastern African countries including Ethiopia and Kenya. Understanding the dynamics of free roaming dog populations is, thus, a step to be taken prior to designing effective rabies prevention and control strategy in these countries.
Objectives: The present study was designed to determine the number of free roaming dogs in selected settings in Ethiopia and Kenya, and describe the level of community knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) on rabies incidence/human exposures. The study also described the socio-cultural value of dog keeping in the areas considered in the study.
Methodology: Counting free roaming dogs were a major means of collecting data in both Ethiopia and Kenya. Dog count was made using the markup capture approach. Other than counting, questionnaire was used to obtain data for the study. Three-hundred and ninety-eight copies of questionnaires were administered to the study participants in Ethiopia, while the number of respondents to the questionnaire in Kenya was 351. In addition, a five-year retrospective data on dog/animal bite cases were collected from selected health facilities of the study sites.
Results: A total of 2991 and 386 free roaming dogs were counted in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively. A five-year retrospective data showed cases of 1524 (in Mekelle) and 429 (Assela) individuals who were bitten/infected by rabies-suspected animals. Evidence obtained from the health facilities in Mekelle and Assela showed the bitten/infected individuals took PEP within the specified period.
In Kenya, a total of 3441 and 4997 animal bite cases were reported from 2010-2014 in Kisumu and Siaya, respectively. The number of animal bite cases may signify the economic burden incurred (cost of PEP and other related costs), public health impact and social value of the disease. The questionnaire data also indicated the existing dog management practices, awareness of the community about rabies and its zoonotic importance, the first line of action taken at home for individuals bitten by rabies suspected animal, awareness of the community on dog vaccination, importance of free roaming dogs and their management.
Conclusion: The significant proportion of free roaming dogs and number of animal bite cases calls for an integrated action between human and veterinary professionals to control the number of free roaming dog population, initiate awareness creation programs in the community and increase the vaccination of owned dogs there by to control and prevent rabies. Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2018;32(1):27-35]
Key words: Ethiopia, Kenya, Free roaming dogs, rabies, animal bites, KAP