KARACHI, Aug 31: Expressing concern over a surge in dog mauling cases in the country as well as in Karachi, experts have urged the government to gear up it efforts for the prevention of rabies.
According to health practitioners and environmentalists, around 1.5 million dog mauling cases and 2,000-5,000 deaths from rabies are reported annually in Pakistan. In many cases, people bitten by dogs receive improper treatment either due to a lack of awareness or insignificant response from the government.
These observations were made at a press conference organised at the Karachi Press Club on Friday to highlight the issue of rabies-related deaths and World Rabies Day in the city on Sept 8.
A number of doctors, veterinaries and chief of an NGO on environment and public health issues expressed their views on the increase in the number of stray dogs, diagnosis and treatment modalities, quality of anti-rabies vaccines, role of municipalities in controlling the population of stray dogs, etc.
Leading the conference, president of Rabies in Asia (Pakistan) and a senior infectious disease consultant, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, said that rabies was prevalent in both the urban and rural areas across the country and children were the worst sufferers who were usually bitten on the face, head or neck and often mangled beyond recognition.
She said that rabies infection once developed in human bodies ended only with the death of the infected person. Dr Salahuddin also pointed towards the inefficacy of the anti-rabies vaccines produced and distributed by the National Institute of Health, which were largely administered to dog bitten people at government health facilities despite being known for causing severe reactions as well.
Stressing the need for cell culture vaccines, she said that the government should make arrangements for the import of those modern vaccines on a large scale as those had also been recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
She said that the cell vaccines were highly effective but beyond the reach of the common man due to their high cost. However, the rabies centres established at the JPMC and Civil Hospital were administering these vaccines to patients through some donations.
She advised the people that in case they experience or witness a dog bite they should wash the wound with water and soap for at least ten minutes to get the spot cleaned of infection, without wasting any time, and then report to some competent doctor or hospital for vaccination.
Dr Qaiser Sajjad, general-secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi, said that on an average the major public sector hospitals in the city received 10-12 cases daily. He said that relevant treatment should be made available at all the public sector hospitals round the clock.
Shahida Kauser Farooq, the chairperson of Subh-e-Nau, an environment and public health concern, said that rate of increase in dog population was alarming and needed to be addressed by the city government as well.
One of the speakers said that the Infectious Disease Society of Pakistan, Subh-e-Nau, and Rabies in Asia (Pakistan chapter) Foundation would be joining countries across the world on World Rabies Day on Sept 8.
A walk, to be led by Sindh health minister, will be organised at 9am from Mazar-i-Quaid to Old Numaish and the PMA will hold a seminar at PMA House at 3pm.