Lack of data hurdle to curb rabies, say doctors

Although rabies is preventable, it kills 30,000 people in the country on an average every year. The country accounts for 60 per cent of deaths due to rabies globally.

September 28 happens to be the World Rabies Day and doctors feel that increasing awareness among the people about the management of animal bites and uniformity in treatment was the need of the hour.

“While WHO has laid down guidelines on treatment of animal bite cases, there is wide variation in treatment,” said Dr Murali Kumar, chief of casualty and emergency at Chinmaya Mission Hospital, at a seminar for doctors on recent advances and treatment measures in rabies organised at the hospital on Saturday.

Also, many doctors with private practice, who administer anti-rabies vaccines to dog bite victims, refer the patients to bigger hospitals for rabies immunoglobulin, which are readymade antibodies that protect a person from the rabies virus during the 14-day period following the bite, only after which the vaccine is effective.

“We get at least one dog bite case everyday. Apart from this, we get three to four cases referred by clinics to administer equine immunoglobulin,” he said.

Number of deaths

Dr BJ Mahendra, head of the department of community medicine, Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences (MIMS), also the international coordinator for rabies in Asia Foundation, said: “India was and is notorious for not having paper data on rabies incidence. When we undertook a disease burden survey in 2004, the number of deaths attributed to rabies was 20,565. Today it would be less considering the number of vaccines and immunoglobulin available in the market. Yet, many people die of rabies”.

MIMS gets at least 10 to 15 dog bite cases everyday at its intra-dermal anti rabies clinic, the first to be set up in a government hospital in the State four years ago.

Dr B N Patnaik of Human Biologicals Institute, a quasi-government organisation which develops anti-rabies vaccine, said it was important for policy makers to realise that anti-rabies vaccine was as important as any other vaccine included in the national immunisation programme.

Besides, anti-rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin, a dog bite victim needs to take tetanus injection, he said.

In Bangalore

In Bangalore, 84,000 dog bite cases and one rabies death were reported by BBMP last year. It reported no deaths from 2005 till 2009. However, two deaths were reported in 2009-10. On an average, the Palike receives 700-1,000 dog bite cases (including by pet dogs) every month.

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