TODAY -

Rabies outbreak and unsolicited ‘hysteria’
- Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: January 21, 2014 -



Reported cases of dog bite deaths in some parts of Manipur in the last one month has once again revived the aged-old fear of Rabies, one of the most widely spread zoonoses, diseases that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans.

It is said that worldwide Rabies causes about 55,000 human deaths annually, out of which 95 percent human deaths occur in Africa and Asia with India and Bangladesh accounting the highest incidence of Rabies deaths in the entire South East Asian region.

According to the 2004 report of World Health Organisation (WHO), there are approximately 18,000 human Rabies deaths in India every year.

This is despite the fact that Rabies, though recognized for over 4,000 years, is a vaccine-preventable disease and there are safe and effective vaccines for both human and veterinary use.

Researchers have also demonstrated effectiveness of strategies to control rabies at the population level, through post exposure prophylaxis in humans and animal birth control and immunization among dogs.

But the sad part of the story is that policy makers in most Rabies endemic countries including India have always been hesitant or half-hearted in implementing these strategies.

As a consequence, Rabies continues to remain deadly, posing a serious public health issue in the country.

Still sadder, the same lackadaisical attitude towards dealing with the problem of Rabies can be seen in Manipur as well, on the side of the authorities concerned as well as the public and their elected representatives.

Even though available information or data is sketchy due to absence of any systematic study on the magnitude of the health problem in the State, everyone knows that this is not the first time that cases of Rabies or deaths from bite by rabid dogs have occurred in Manipur.

According to Animal Diseases Awareness Bulletin, 2004-05, though there was no human fatality, in all 94 cases were found positive of Rabies in animals like dogs, cats and other domestic cattle in Manipur from 1997 to 2005 and the reported human deaths from possible bites by rabid dogs till March 21 of 2006 was 18.

Moreover, there were reports of confirming 13 cases of rabies infection in dogs in the State during 2009-2010 and eight cases during 2010-2011. Last year, in addition to reported death of three persons from suspected cases of Rabies in Phumlou under Imphal West district, there were reports on death of two minor kids in the district hospital of Tamenglong after being bitten by dogs and of a young man in Motbung village meeting similar fate, although the two latter cases have never been confirmed by the authorities concerned.

And this year, outbreak of Rabies in some parts of the State, especially in Churachandpur district and Andro Assembly Constituency of Imphal East district, where 12 lives have been already claimed, has come to grip the people.

Here, what we would like to underscore is the hysterical response of the authorities concerned as well the public, including some of their elected representatives who seem to look upon the present crisis as a perfect opportunity to gain some political mileage.

It has been seen that if the authorities are in the habit of stepping up anti-rabies vaccination drive only after report of Rabies related death cases spreads like wildlife, the dog owners unfailingly make a beeline to vaccinate their canine-pets at every veterinary hospital and clinic even though they have remained oblivious to the responsibility of vaccinating their pets rest of the time.

On the other hand, some elected representatives of the people seem to have come under the impression that the reported outbreak of Rabies is a god-send opportunity for them to indulge in some politicking by opening their mouths to hold the department concerned accountable, while forgetting the fact that they themselves are to be blamed and held responsible for the sorry state of affairs prevailing in the department itself.

Well, as long as such attitude of the public and their elected representatives remains, outbreak of Rabies would continue to haunt Manipur even though this zoonotic disease is preventable.



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