Man dies 25 years after dogbite

“The cause for reactivation of the dormant viral infection is not known,” the report by Dr S K Shankar, head of Nimhans Department of Neuropathology noted, adding that “it is extremely unusual to manifest reactivation after 25 years of dog bite”.

Nimhans is said to be considering a research paper on the rare case. But its report has triggered an intense debate in medical circles here with the fraternity divided over its conclusions.

Dr Jose De Sa, epidemiologist with the state’s Health Services told Deccan Herald that the autopsy findings of the “unusual” case were being referred to the National Centre for Diseases Control, Delhi and it would add to medical knowledge.

But veterinary surgeon Gustavo Pinto said it was “very hard to believe that a person can contract rabies from a bite 25 years ago”. It is too long an incubation period. The man most likely touched or was licked by a rabid animal more recently, he suspects.

He does admit though, that a dog with the rabies virus has survived for years and is the subject of a scientific study at the Pasteur Institute of India, Coonoor.

A senior doctor who treated Ashraf Inam Hassan, the victim who died on November 5 at the Goa Medical College said it wasn’t sufficient to rely on case history recorded at the government hospital. The man distributed milk and newspapers and could have easily come in contact with an infected dog.  

Hassan worked in the stores of the National Institute of Oceanography and his case has set off alarm bells with co-workers and neighbours rushing to get anti-rabies shots. ‘Goan Observer’ editor Rajan Narayan, a close friend of the victim blames the Goa Medical College for contributing to the panic and treating the patient inhumanly.

The dying man was dumped in the Institute of Psychiatry as a case of “hysteria”, even after an unambiguous diagnosis by senior doctors had held that he was in the terminal stages of rabies. Narayan said Hassan, when asked if he had been bitten by a dog said he could only recall being bitten by one 25 years or more ago.

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