Rabies, passed to humans primarily through dog bite, is always fatal by the time its symptoms show up but is entirely preventable.
Washing wounds thoroughly with soap and water after a bite is an effective way of preventing infection, while both pre-exposure and post-exposure vaccinations for humans exist. Mass vaccinations of dogs, which transmit 95 per cent of rabies
cases to humans, can eliminate the disease.
An estimated 59,000 people die from rabies
across the world each year, according to the World Health
Organization (WHO), with around 90 per cent of these among children in rural areas of Africa and Asia. In India alone, WHO estimates human deaths each year from rabies
ranges from 18,000 to 20,000. Many of these are children, often dying outside of medical facilities — meaning, their deaths go unrecorded.
The figure could be exaggerated. But, it does not excuse the fact that states report a number of documented deaths because of rabies.
"The elimination of rabies
in India is daunting but not impossible," Reeta Mani, associate professor of the National Institute of Mental Health
& Neurosciences, told WHO.
"Control of canine rabies
through vaccination and dog birth control is imperative, although with 25 million stray dogs
in the country, this is a formidable task."
The Institute of Animal Health
and Veterinary Biologicals in Palode, Thiruvananthapuram, is working on an indigenously developed vaccine, which should be ready in two years. Once ready, it can be bought by governments all over India and, hopefully, death from rabies
will become history.
Data: National Health Profile 2017, produced by the ministry of health, Government of India
Source: Media reports and WHO