Deaths due to rabies high in India

Updated - October 03, 2015 05:48 am IST

Published - October 03, 2015 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI:

Another World Rabies Day has passed by with statistics being espoused about the number of deaths caused by rabies. The fact is that India accounts for 20,000 of the 45,000 deaths due to rabies every year.

With over 95 per cent of the time rabies virus being transmitted through dog bites, the focus must be on the animal too. Doctors say the high number of deaths is due to the low proportion of vaccinated dogs.

According to data provided by the Public Health Foundation of India in its Rabies Control Initiative in Tamil Nadu, 2010, the State has around 4,238 dogs per lakh population.

“People do not realise that a bite by a pet can also cause rabies. The virus attacks the nervous system and reaches the brain. When a pet licks an open wound, it could transmit the virus even if it has been vaccinated. The risk is higher as not all dogs are vaccinated. We found in our survey that people want free vaccines and don’t want to take up animal birth control,” says S. Elango, president of the State branch of the Indian Public Health Association.

Sufficient vaccine stock

Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisami says since instances of dog bites are spatially well-distributed across the State, the government had ensured “unlimited supply of immunoglobulin and anti-rabies vaccine in all government hospitals and primary health centres.”

As for making available the vaccine free of cost through pharmacies, he said it was nominally priced even in the open market.

Only the administration of immunoglobulin could be expensive, and this people could access through government facilities, he maintains.

The Health department is working with the Veterinary department to ensure even distribution of intra-dermal vaccine, Dr. Kolandaisami says.

Protecting dogs

Dogs also must be protected, says T.N. Ganesh, director of Clinics, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. “Vaccination will prevent the spread of the virus. It is a dreadful disease with no treatment. When a human is bitten, we insist that a veterinarian examine the dog to rule out rabies,” he says.

“We have to vaccinate all dogs, including pets and community dogs, to eradicate rabies. Dogs must be routinely vaccinated as a booster dose annually will prevent rabies. Animal birth control is definitely important to manage the community dog population,” he adds.

Country accounts for nearly 50 per cent of deaths reported every year

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