World Rabies Day

September 28, 2019

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ONE of the most horrific deaths is caused by rabies. The disease is transmitted to humans through the saliva of infected animals. While nearly all warm-blooded mammals can contract the virus, it is most commonly found in dogs and bats. In a state of rage, the animal attempts to gnaw at anything in its path. When humans are bitten by a rabid animal, the virus creeps through the nerves and quickly enters the central nervous system. Early symptoms include fever, headaches and weakness, which can develop into general feelings of anxiety and confusion. At its final stages, the unsuspecting victim suffers from insomnia, hallucinations, delirium, hydrophobia, and has difficulty swallowing. Gradually, the unfortunate victim of the rabies virus slips into a coma, before meeting an untimely death due to organ failure. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of rabies death is that it is entirely preventable, if necessary steps are taken in its early stages. Timely intervention and vaccination can destroy the virus by building the body’s immune system. Unfortunately, many Pakistanis are unaware of what steps to take after being bitten by an animal, or they do not have the means to access the relatively expensive vaccines and immunoglobulin that have to be administered immediately after being bitten.

Despite repeated warnings by health officials about the shortage of rabies vaccines in government hospitals and the threat posed to citizens from a growing stray dog population — repeated, inhumane culling campaigns clearly proving to be ineffective — there have been at least 13 deaths caused by rabies in Sindh alone this year. The latest victim was a 40-year-old woman from Badin, who passed away at the JPMC Hospital in Karachi. Between January and August, over 122,000 incidents of dog bites have been reported. While all dog bites are not rabid, precaution must always be taken. On this World Rabies Day, the provincial and federal governments, health authorities, NGOs and all concerned citizens must pledge to end the spread of rabies.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2019