Dogs are beloved family pets in Ivory Coast. However, now families have to deal with an endemic rabies infecting their pets.
The government has a national strategy to fight the plague, and faces a herculean task to eradicate the virus.
A report by a multidisciplinary group of scientists set up by the Ivorian government has found rabies is endemic in the country.
Veterinarian Koumaré Yacouba says anyone who is not treated for rabies within three weeks is likely to die.
"If a person was bitten by a dog that has rabies, the person has 21 days to overcome the infection. During the 21 days if he does not get treated, he dies. There are no treatments after (rabies) presents signs. That's the reason why, if a dog bites someone, whatever its health, whatever its delay of the vaccination, whether it is vaccinated or not we begin directly to treat the person", Yacouba said.
The Ivorian government hopes to achieve the eradication of rabies by ensuring that every dog gets vaccinated. Vaccinating dogs is now mandatory. The UN supports the government's annual pilot mass vaccination campaign.
Dr. Kallo Vessaly is the government's Deputy Director of Animal Health.
"It is necessary to vaccinate 70% of the canine population for at least five years, if you want to eliminate a disease like rabies. We are at 15%, so we are far from 70%, this means that we will never be able to eliminate rabies if we continue to have such a low vaccination rate", Dr. Vessaly said.
Local residents lament that dogs are left out of control and unschooled. They also claim that biting incidents are common.
According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization which is supporting the policy, the group's estimated there are 1.5 million dogs in Ivory Coast.
The Ivorian government has set a target of 2030 to eradicate rabies.