PMC’s rabies battle still dogged by issues

With man-animal confliction the rise as the earth’s human population ex plodes, it has become clearer that this clash occurs not just with wild, but also domesticated animals, like stray dogs. This fact has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to come out with a new global framework on Thursday, with a view to totally eliminating rabies, by calling for key actions like making human vaccines and antibodies affordable, ensuring that bitten people receive prompt treatment and tackling the disease at its source via mass dog vaccinations.

The rules mandate the need to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of dogs regularly in zones where rabies is present, so as to reduce human cases to zero.

Closer home, though the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has long stated that it regularly conducts mass vaccination drives and vaccinates sterilised dogs as well, official data obtained from them makes it clear that these account for nowhere near the required percentage of the local dog population.

The stray population in Pune is es timated to be around 45,000 by the civic body -mass vaccination drives undertaken by the civic body twice a year cover barely 1,000 dogs collectively. In addition, dogs picked up for sterilisations are also vaccinated before release -but then, consider this year, in which there have been around 10,000 dog sterilisations done. If one were to do the math, only 11,000 or so city strays seem to have been vaccinated, which is a paltry 24 per cent of the total population.

Data says that there were 12,731 dog bite cases in 2012, 13,668 in 2013, 12,741 in 2014 and around 15,626 cases till now this year in the city. Victims were administered anti-rabies vaccines (ARV), although not all of them were exposed to rabid dogs.

Dr Amit Shah, medical officer at PMC’s health department, said, “We are doing as much as possible by vaccinating dogs when we pick them up to sterilise them; our mass vaccination drives twice a year also tackle around 500 dogs at a time.“

Asked about follow-ups, he said, “It is not easy to catch strays, who are nimble and know their area. When they smell our workers, they run away. The second difficulty is to track dogs, since it is financially and logistically not viable to place tags on them. We already clip the ears of sterilised dogs, so we can not do the same for vaccinated ones. It must be noted that several people also privately approach us for such vaccinations beyond our initiatives. However, it is difficult to say whether this takes the number of total vaccinated dogs to 70 per cent of the population.“

Puppies can be vaccinated for rabies by the age of 12 weeks; this subsequently needs to be boostered within a year. Once the second vaccine is administered, dogs can take the vaccination every three years.

WHO claims the greatest burden of this often-deadly infection is in Asia and Africa. Following the release of the new framework, the organisation’s director-general, Dr Margaret Chan, said, “Rabies is 100 per cent preventable through vaccination and timely immunisation after exposure, but access to post-bite treatment is expensive and not affordable in many Asian and African countries. If we follow this more comprehensive approach, we can consign rabies to history books.“
Source : Pune Mirror

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