By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: After successfully fighting major crippling diseases
like polio, yaws and dracunculiasis (Guinea worm), India has now
launched the mega task of eliminating the killer human rabies. There
is no known cure for rabies and the only way of avoiding death is
through vaccination after exposure to bite by rabid dog.
About 1.75 crore people suffer from animal bites in the country
resulting in 20,000 deaths every year. The National Centre for Disease
Control (NCDC) has taken up the human rabies elimination programme
after successfully containing the killer disease in Ahmedabad,
Bangalore, Pune, Madurai and Delhi, where it was taken up on pilot
basis. It will now be extended to the entire country.
In the last 35 years, India eradicated smallpox and dracunculiasis and
is on the verge of eradicating polio and yaws. The focus is now on to
eliminate human rabies. A disease is said to be “eliminated” when
cases come down drastically, and “eradicated” when not a single case
is reported within five years after its elimination. Human rabies can
be eliminated through birth control and vaccination of stray dogs, and
timely vaccination to persons bitten by rabid animals.
According to NCDC sources, the mega plan to eliminate human rabies
includes strengthening of post exposure prophylaxis (vaccination after
dog bite) to prevent human deaths throughout the country,
operationalization of cost effective and efficacious intradermal route
for vaccination and extension of rabies treatment facilities to
peri-urban/rural areas. The Central government will involve NGOs and
community through strengthened intersectoral coordination and
vaccination of stray dogs.
The project also focuses on wound management, awareness among people
about post exposure vaccination, special laboratories to detect cases
and proper surveillance. As the anti-rabies strategy paid rich
dividends in the five pilot cities in the last two years, NCDC
officials hope that the strategy can be replicated throughout the
country to make India free of human rabies.
Similar efforts are also on to eliminate leprosy, malaria and
tuberculosis. But elimination of human rabies is a major challenge as
the disease is transmitted to human beings through rabid animals,
particularly dogs. Human rabies can be controlled only after a check
on animal rabies.
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