You have to keep the dog under observation
Sindh’s health minister was roasted on Monday for saying the rabies vaccine is expensive and should be used carefully and that dogs should be kept under observation. And she is absolutely right.
Dr Azra Fazal’s mistake was that she used the word “expensive”. She drew flak from people who interpreted this as the government wanting to be stingy.
Dr Sohail Anwar of Abbasi Shaheed Hospital was asked for comment. He contradicted her by saying: “Dog-bite is a serious problem. Vaccination is must even if a dog scratches you.” He should have qualified his statement. You should get the vaccine if the dog is rabid.
This is why Dr Azra was right when she said that the dog must be kept under observation. If, for example, a household pet scratches you but has been immunised, then you don’t necessarily need the vaccine. But if, for example, there is a dog that is running around biting several people, then chances are that it is rabid and then you need to get the vaccination.
Karachi’s largest tertiary care hospital JPMC has a special dog-bite unit that is open 24 hours. This was a special interest project started by JPMC director Dr Seemin Jamali. She was unavailable for comment, but her head nurse, Daisy Nasreen, explained that their protocol is to ask about the dog when families come in with a dog-bite victim. “We ask if they know the dog,” Nasreen said. They ask if the dog has run off, or can be observed.
ASH’s Dr Anwar also claimed that: “It cannot be tested if a dog is infected or not.” This is debatable. If a dog is rabid it will probably need animal services to capture it. If the dog can be controlled and captured, then it can be tested.
As far as the price is concerned, Dr Azra was also correct when she said the vaccine was expensive. Dr Muzaffar Ali Memon at Murshid Hospital told SAMAA Digital that the anti-rabies vaccines costs around Rs 720 to Rs 750 and is available at pharmacies. But price is relative.
Of course, animal bite infections are serious and can even be life-threatening if left untreated. But it is important to observe the dog’s behaviour as well.
Twelve cases were recently reported in Model Colony, Korangi district. The dog-bite victims were brought to Jinnah hospital.
Between 2009 and 2016, 91 people died of dog-bite and rabies in Karachi, according to infectious diseases expert Dr Naseem Salahuddin. “Around 150 cases occur in the city daily,” she has said. She is working on a special project in Ibrahim Hyderi. Indus Hospital also has a dog-bite clinic.
The World Health Organization has set a target to eliminate rabies across the globe by 2030. Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. Here is more information on what it recommends you do: WHO website.