Myth, ignorance spell doom for dog bite victims

September 30, 2009

Govt officer dies of rabies
A 35-year-old government officer died of rabies at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) recently. A dog bit him three months back, which he ignored and did not take any safeguard after the bite. He turned up at the hospital when he began to feel pain and numbness at the bite site.
But, it was too late as doctors said he developed rabies that affects the nervous system and cannot be cured.
Based on hospital data, the Association for Prevention and Control of Rabies in Bangladesh (APCRB) indicates that about 2,000 people die of rabies in the country every year that can be prevented if proper measurers were in place.
Experts attribute lack of awareness, ignorance and myths for the deaths.
“Once infected with rabies, death is inevitable, but the fatal disease is totally preventable with the help of vaccine,” said rabies expert Dr M. Salim Uzzaman.
Dr Salim, who is also the vice-president of APCRB, said that animal bites still remain a challenge in the country where 50,000 bites are recorded every year, according to the reported cases of the IDH. 
The actual figures of death from rabies in the country may be five times higher than the documented figures and this, he said, was due to lack of awareness.
Rabies is a highly fatal infection, which occurs virtually in all warm-blooded animals and man, and is transmitted by the bites of the affected animals.
The disease is transmitted mostly through the bite of rabid dogs. Other carnivorous animals like cats, jackals and wolves may also transmit the infection.
Stray dogs contribute most of the cases of the 90 per cent rabies in the country. The cases occur mostly during the months of August and September, the mating season of the dogs.
Besides, natural calamities can surge the rate when people and animals are compelled to stay together.
One person dies from rabies every 10 minutes in the world. Most deaths occur in China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where rabies is endemic and healthcare is poor.
Dr Salim said, most of the people try to ignore after being bitten by an animal and some people turn to the traditional healers that aggravates the condition.
He said, “If wounds were cleaned up for 10 to 15 minutes with soap and water, it could reduce the chances of infection by 50 per cent without any cost.”
“Every bite needs anti-rabies vaccination, as there is no treatment for rabies,” he said.
The government hospitals are using nerve-tissue vaccine (NTV) which the WHO declared obsolete in 2005.
WHO recommends modern painless tissue culture vaccine that is taken on arms, instead of belly as in the case of painful NTV.
Experts said that the government should introduce tissue culture vaccine in the hospitals.
The director general of the directorate general of health services Dr Shah Munir Hossain, told The Independent that they had already prepared a plan to manufacture tissue-culture vaccine, Verorab, in the country.
A plan had been sent to the planning ministry in this regard, he said, adding, it required more than Tk100 crore to build such plant.
The director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Prof Mahmudur Rahman said that before producing the vaccine we should prepare a master plan to control the disease.
Preparing a plan was not very difficult and many countries in the world had been declared rabies-free as they had adopted plans. 
“Plans will include registration and vaccination of pets, controlling stray dogs, and human vaccination programmes,” he said.
Rabies virus may remain dormant for up to six years, experts warned calling for building up a national movement against the disease.
Once the virus enters the human body, symptoms of rabies, one of the top ten killer diseases, usually occur in three days.
In 80 per cent cases of rabies, hydrophobia (fear of water) and aerophobia (fear of air) occur while in rest 20 per cent cases it is paralysis.

Courtesy of The Independent

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