Meet the Rabies Free Africa team: Dr. Ahmed Lugelo

Dr. Lugelo administering a rabies vaccine.

Ahmed Lugelo is a project manager for Rabies Free Tanzania

Why is it important to eliminate rabies?

I have been working with the rabies project in the Mara region of northern Tanzania for more than six years. Rabies is a serious public health problem in the Mara region, with more than 2,500 animal bite victims being exposed to rabies resulting in around 40 human deaths each year. As part of my work, I trace hundreds of people bitten by animals suspected of rabies and provide medical advice.

Since the start of the implementation of Rabies Free Tanzania in the Mara region, the data from the surveillance project indicate that there is a steady decline in probable rabies in both humans and animals. This data is in line with the feedback obtained from the communities through interviews that the rabies cases in their localities are absent or have gone down. I believe the lessons learned in this program can be scaled up to other parts of the country facing the similar problem.

Can you see the program having an impact?

One day I was called by clinicians to offer advice for a 7-year-old child who was hospitalized following a dog bite three weeks earlier. The child was bitten by a neighbor’s dog when returning from school. Unfortunately, his mother didn’t seek medical treatment on time because she had no money. When I arrived at the hospital I found the child in critical condition, he was showing typical symptoms of rabies such as barking, hallucination and hydrophobia. He was receiving supportive care; it was too late to intervene and reverse the situation. The child died three hours later. This was my first time seeing someone dying in agony and being completely helpless. It was a terrible experience. I realized that rabies, the disease that I’m trained on and had read about in books, was a real enemy claiming the lives of innocent people. This experience completely transformed my thinking about rabies and my passion for working in this field grew even stronger.

What do you do when you are not fighting rabies?

Apart from rabies, I like reading nonfiction books and learning about history, particularly the rise and fall of the largest empires. I also enjoy visiting historical sites, traveling to explore new places, and spending time with family and relatives.