Around 40,000 people suffer dog bites in Punjab annually but the government is not taking any major step to make the treatment and vaccination more accessible in the province.
While the World Rabies Day was observed in the province, no effective measures have been witnessed to prevent attacks by stray dogs. The treatment for the victims is also expensive. There is only one big dog bite centre active in the province, while the hospitals are facing shortage of rabies vaccine. Dog bite is the major cause of rabies but the authorities do not appear to give adequate importance to preventing it.
The province’s only major dog bite centre is located on Jail Road, while two small centres are working in Multan and Rawalpindi.
While no department has collected detailed information about dog bite incidents in the country, the data available at the dog bite centre in Lahore shows that around 40,000 such incidents take place in Punjab annually, while the estimate for the whole country is over 200,000. Besides injuries, a number of deaths were also reported across the province due to dog bites during the past year.
According to a report compiled by the Special Branch, 11 deaths due to dog bite were reported in Punjab last year. According to another report, 40,000 stray dogs were killed in a year, while their total number was much higher.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Professor Dr Abdul Rahman, a rabies specialist at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), stressed the need for awareness about dog bites. “The patient should immediately wash the wound with soap and visit a hospital for vaccination. There are five doses that are compulsory for the victim. The first dose is administered on day of the dog bite, second after three days, third a week, fourth after two weeks and fifth after four weeks.” The doctor said the patients and their families should remember that there should be no negligence after an incident of dog bite, because there is no treatment of rabies.
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However, an official of the dog bite centre in Lahore said the second dose of the vaccine was not available in any hospital of the province. He said the hospitals referred the patients to Lahore after giving the first dose.
He alleged that a mafia present at the dog bite centre forced the patients to get vaccinated at outlets present nearby and the the medical stores charge up to Rs7,000 for a dose.
The official said patients from across the province visited the centre for treatment. “We should first control the population of stray dogs in Punjab. According to an estimate, there are around 450,000 stray dogs in Punjab that freely move in the streets of villages and cities,” said Dr Abdul Basit, former medical superintendent of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
he sutuation in every province is similar and the people, especially children, are left exposed to the risk.
In the other hand, provincial health department spokesman Sayed Hamad Raza said in reply to a question that the department took the threat of rabies seriously and ensured that the vaccine was available in every hospital. Meanwhile, the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences marked the World Rabies Day with a walk to create awareness about the disease.
Vice Chancellor Prof Nasim Ahmad led the walk while Pro VC Dr Masood Rabbani, deans, directors, chairpersons and students from various university societies and faculty members participated in the walk. The walk started from the VC Office and culminated at the Pet Centre after taking a round of the City Campus of the university. The Pet Centre also arranged a free rabies vaccination camp to mark the day. The VC inaugurated the camp by vaccinating a cat.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2021.