KARACHI: A man suffering from full-blown rabies after being bitten by a stray dog in New Karachi over a month ago died on Tuesday, as the death toll from dog bites in Sindh reached 20 amid shortage of anti-rabies vaccine (ARV), a growing population of stray dogs and inadequate facilities.
Officials said that 46-year-old Mohammad Saleem was with his four-year-old daughter at an area shop some six weeks ago when she was attacked by a stray dog. He tried his best to keep his daughter safe but in the process the dog bit his thumb.
“He was initially taken to the Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi and then to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, but both hospitals denied him vaccination claiming that they did not have the anti-rabies vaccine,” said his younger brother Mohammad Amir. “After weeks of the incident, his condition started deteriorating and we finally shifted him to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). But by that time he had developed full-blown rabies.”
The victim died at the hospital. He was a tailor by profession and father of six, the officials said.
The latest incident in the provincial metropolis belies the claims of the Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and its Sindh government, which has been ruling the province for a third consecutive term since 2008, that it can meet the challenge of rabies in Sindh.
“A few days ago I watched the video of a boy in rural Sindh who died in his mother’s lap for the same reasons,” said Amir, the victim’s brother. “I wonder [why] this is [happening in a city like] Karachi.”
He was referring to the video which went viral on social media in September. It showed a horrific incident in Shikarpur where an 11-year-old child died of rabies in his mother’s lap.
When the PPP government was criticised and the party chairman was questioned about the incident the next day, he came up with a straight denial, saying his party-led Sindh government could not be blamed for the boy’s death.
Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani had also tried to explain that the shortage of anti-rabies vaccines was not the reasons for the boy’s death as he was bitten by a dog 40 days before and his family did not bring him to a hospital.
The story of Saleem’s death in the provincial capital and the country’s business hub, however, has reopened the debate raising several questions.
“He [Saleem] had developed full-blown rabies after he was bitten, probably by a stray dog some 40-42 days ago,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of the JPMC. “His family told us he was taken to the Sindh Government Hospital in New Karachi and then to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital but none of them had vaccine.”
She said that the family had purchased some vaccine from the market; apparently only one dose was administered to him. “We believe that Saleem was probably not given any vaccine after he was bitten by a rabid dog. He got one injection of some medicine, which was not the anti-rabies vaccine. Now after 40 days, this person had developed full-blown rabies.”
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019