Rabies scourge

September 23, 2019

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IN a widely circulated video, a 12-year-old boy is seen gasping for breath on his mother’s lap. As he lies there breathing his last, she sobs into her dupatta, equally helpless. As painful as it is to watch, the video shows the desperation of victims and their families affected by the deadly rabies virus in their last days. The boy is said to have contracted the virus after being bitten by a rabid dog in his village in Shikarpur. Approximately 40 days later, he passed away at a Larkana hospital. Prior to this tragic incident, health experts had been decrying the dearth of rabies vaccines in the country, particularly in Sindh, which has seen a number of cases this year.

However, when the issue was recently brought up with the PPP’s Saeed Ghani, he blamed the parents for delaying the child’s visit to the hospital. While the exact details of the case are not yet known, the comment is incredibly insensitive at this time. Many are not aware of the precise steps that need to be taken immediately after a bite from a potentially rabid animal, through no fault of their own. First, the area that has come into contact with the animal’s saliva must be rinsed with soap and water, followed by the administering of the anti-rabies vaccine and immuglobulin inside or around the wound, depending on the severity of the bite. It is the job of the government and health authorities to have up-to-date knowledge and to spread awareness about vital and timely steps to take in order to counter the spread of rabies. The response by the authorities to tackle the threat has so far been short-sighted. Forgetting that animals, too, suffer, stray dogs are killed brutally through mass culling, which proves counterproductive as it leads to higher rates of breeding amongst them. Instead, investing in trap-neuter-return programmes is a far more effective and humane way to reduce the stray dog population and thus safeguard human life.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019