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World Rabies Day: Canine horror as Kashmir witnesses rise in dog bite cases

On World Rabies Day learn more about rabies and how to protect yourself and your pets. Be aware of the dangers of animal bites.

By Jahangir Sofi
New Update
World Rabies Day: Canine horror as Kashmir Witnesses rise in dog bite cases

Ongoing year so far registered 4300 animal bites, 65% comprise dog bites, 30 % Cat bites

Amid the global observance of World Rabies Day (WRD), celebrated every year on 28 September, canine horror in Kashmir is witnessing a spike raising questions about the management and control of the canine population in the region.

According to the officials, Anti-Rabies Clinic (ARC) at the SMHS hospital in Srinagar this year from April 2023 till now has reported at least 4300 animal bite cases of which 65% comprise of dog bites.

As the day calls for awareness about rabies and it’s prevention, WRD also emphasises eliminating the disease among humans through proper education, intervention, and precautionary measures. It also aims to educate people about rabies and how to protect themselves and their pets. 

As the data and experts on the subject suggest there has been a rise in dog bite cases in Kashmir in recent years, a brewing concern is surging among the residents in the region over the rising number of animal bite incidents with emphasis on dog bite cases. 

According to the ARC figures shared with Ground Report in the ongoing year from April till September, at least 4300 cases of animal bite have been reported of which 65 % are dog bite cases.

According to the officials there too is a spike in cat bite cases in the valley, saying that 30 % of bite cases from the above-quoted figures are of cat bites, while the remaining 5 % comprise of other animal bites.

The officials added that compared to the last year from April 2022 to March 2023 at least 6800 animal bite cases were reported at ARC of which around 5700 cases are of dog bites. 

Understanding the Factors

Overpopulation and Lack of Sterilization

According to the observers, one of the primary factors contributing to the rise in dog bite cases is the overpopulation of stray dogs in Kashmir. These dogs often roam freely, searching for food and shelter. 

The absence of an effective sterilization program has resulted in an unchecked breeding cycle, exacerbating the issue. The increased number of dogs on the streets poses a higher risk of potential dog bite incidents.

Open Garbage Dumps, Sterilizations

According to a research study on ‘Major Factors Associated with Increased Dog Population within District Srinagar’, open garbage dumps have been highlighted as a public health problem.

As per the research published in 2021, only around 2,000 sterilizations were conducted, and also around 2,000 stray dogs were administered the anti-rabies vaccine, stating that this is too low in comparison with the total population of dogs and still, the ballot of dogs from the particular zones of Srinagar is deficient.

The research mentions that to address the issue of the growing dog population in the city, in addition to focusing on proper garbage management Srinagar Municipal Corporation in collaboration with the Animal Welfare Board of India and Sheri Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology also initiated the process of establishing Animal Birth Control and anti-rabies center by signing a tripartite MOU on 11th August 2011.

A Multi-Fold Increase In Dog Population

The research while highlighting the effective garbage management and sterilization of dogs on a fast-track basis to control the dog population states that the highly prolific nature of stray dogs with an average life span of about 2-5 years and two breeding seasons a year, a multi-fold increase in their population can be expected if allowed to breed freely.

The research states that under the availability of energy-rich non-vegan edible waste a female dog can add 10-15 pups to the population every year.

Potential Solutions

Implementing a Sterilization Program

The experts state that to control the overpopulation of stray dogs, it is crucial to implement an effective sterilization program. This initiative would involve spaying or neutering stray dogs to prevent further breeding. By reducing the number of stray dogs, the risk of dog bite incidents can be significantly minimized.

Strengthening Vaccination Programs

Enhancing and expanding vaccination programs is essential to tackle the spread of rabies. Vaccinating a large percentage of the canine population can create a barrier against the transmission of this fatal disease. Collaborations between local authorities, veterinary departments, and non-profit organizations.

Expert Observations

Dr. Muhammad Salim Khan, Professor & HOD Community Medicine GMC Srinagar, told Ground Report that a pledge should be taken to prevent rabies deaths by 2030 and that Rabies is 100% preventable but 100% fatal as well.

Calling for a “one Health concept”, Dr. Khan said that there is a need for integration at all levels, saying that the population of stray dogs and other animals need to be controlled proactively through sterilization and vaccination against rabies.

“Scientific disposal of municipal wastes should be taken up in a way which won’t allow access to stray animals and environmental sanitation. The anti-Rabies management shall be brought upto primary centre levels”, he said.

Dr. Khan remarked that widespread awareness about facts and debunking myths about animal bite management shall be carried across the year through all available media including conventional and social media. 

According to the official at Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), they have taken a series of measures to address stray dog-related concerns on a modernized and scientific level by augmenting the existing and additional infrastructure for carrying out sterilization and anti-rabies vaccine for dogs.

According to a draft document SMC for the Animal Birth Control Programme to address the issue of stray dog-related concerns, the draft has highlighted overpopulation, dog bites, aggression and Rabies as three major concerns.

Stating that there are more than 80,000 dogs in Srinagar, the official say that currently they have a dog holding capacity of around 200 and that to carry out their sterilization and vaccine procedure they follow a defined set of protocols.

World Rabies Day, A Glance

World Rabies Day is celebrated on 28 September to commemorate the French scientist, Louis Pasteur who left this world on 28 September 1985. The contribution of Pasteur in the field of medical science is commendable, Louis Pasteur discovered the rabies vaccine and saved countless lives.

World Rabies Day 2023 Theme

According to the WHO, the theme for World Rabies Day 2023 is “Rabies: All for 1, One Health for All”. This theme highlights the importance of collaboration and equality in the fight against rabies. It also emphasizes the need to strengthen overall health systems to achieve the One Health goal of eliminating rabies by 2030.

“The world has the vaccines, medicines, tools, and technologies to break the cycle of one of the oldest diseases. Together in unity, we can eliminate rabies. Leaving no one behind”, reports WHO.

Cure For Rabies

Although experts say that there is no cure for rabies once it has developed, they state that once there is a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccine can be given to people who have been bitten or exposed to rabies. The PEP vaccine is very effective at preventing rabies if it is given promptly after exposure.

Rabies Prevention

The best way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate your pets and avoid contact with wild animals. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.

WRD Objectives & Significance

  •   To create awareness about Rabies disease, its transmission, and associated health risks.
  • · To encourage animal owners to vaccinate their dogs against Rabies. This will be a great barrier to human transmission of this disease.
  • · To highlight the great role of healthcare professionals in the treatment and prevention of Rabies.
  • · To hold awareness campaigns regarding Rabies, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), proper wound care, and reduction of human deaths caused by the disease.

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