TAXILA: It was more than a nightmare for Mohammad Kamran after his 11-year-old son was bitten by a rabid dog and he started running from pillar to post and got the rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Islamabad.

Kamran, an employee of the railway police, said his son Saim Ali was playing outside his house in Railway Colony when a rabid dog attacked him and bit him on different parts of the body. He said he took his son to Tehsil Headquarters Hospital and after necessary treatment he was referred to Benazir Bhutto Hospital Rawalpindi for RIG. But due to its unavailability, he took the injured to National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad where it was also not available. The injured child was then taken to Pims where he was administered the injection at last.

“My son is so terrified that since the day of the incident he has not gone to school as he is still terrified and wounds are partially healed,” he added.

Official says special drives had been launched for culling stray dogs in city

There have a number of other similar cases where patients got infected by rabid dogs and could not get the vaccine at government health centres and had no other option but to purchase it on their own.

Another victim, Chaudhry Zubair, 40, said the culling of stray dogs in the inner city and cantonment areas was the responsibility of the municipal committee and the cantonment board. However, due to the non-culling of canines by these institutions, their numbers have increased. It is observed that in extreme hot and humid weather conditions, stray dogs more often get rabid. There has been an alarming increase in the dog-bite cases in the city as in the last 18 days 230 cases were reported in government hospitals while there is no data available on the number of cases in private hospitals or clinics.

The number of stray dogs is increasing consistently in the urban areas speaking volumes about the indifference of the concerned authorities, which seem unmoved to work on eradication of stray dogs for a long time. Stray dogs can easily be seen roaming in almost every street and road of the town as well as in cantonment areas particularly at night. In a number of localities, especially railway colony, Haideri town, main bazaar, Rehbar Colony, Mohallah Parri, Mohallah Phalian and adjacent areas it has become almost impossible for citizens to move freely at night because of the increase in number of stray dogs.

Children going to school in the morning and women and elderly people leaving their homes are also attacked by dogs. Butcher shops and the meat thrown at roadsides have become the gathering grounds for these dogs.

President of the local chapter of Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) Dr Syed Asad Ali said rabies was caused by a virus carried in the saliva of infected animals. Rabies, a severe viral disease, is fatal if not treated properly. He said it affected the central nervous systems of most warm-blooded animals and victims of such animal bites have to be immediately vaccinated.

“After exposure to the disease, the victim’s survival is impossible, according to various studies,” he added.

According to another doctor, who wished not to be named, the health department is currently facing an acute shortage of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), a life-saving serum essential for all serious animal exposures.

“The patients were referred to us for administration of RIG after being given the vaccine for rabies,” he said, adding that the RIG injection was needed for all serious animal exposures as it prevented infection from rabies, a hundred percent fatal disease.”

When contacted, Deputy District Officer Health Dr Shahzad Rasool confirmed that 230 cases of dog bites were reported in two government hospitals of the area. He said 154 cases were reported in tehsil headquarters hospital Taxila and 80 at Wah General Hospital. Responding to a question, he said all victims were provided vaccination.

Assistant Commissioner Salman Akbar Warriach said the Tehsil Municipal Administration was utilising all resources to save the residents from dog bite cases and in this connection special drives were launched time to time for culling of stray dogs.

The citizens have urged the provincial government to take notice of the problem and issue necessary directives to the concerned departments to work on killing stray dogs.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2024

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