World Rabies Day: Srinagar reported 55,000 animal bite cases in past decade

Stray dogs menace has remained a persistent issue in Kashmir, particularly in capital Srinagar, where the estimated dog population is 60,000.
The graphical representation shows the trend of animal bites recorded in Srinagar in the past 10 years.(HT Gfx)
The graphical representation shows the trend of animal bites recorded in Srinagar in the past 10 years.(HT Gfx)
Updated on Sep 28, 2020 09:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Srinagar | ByAshiq Hussain, Srinagar

Despite a dog birth control programme in place to stabilise the increasing population of stray canines in Jammu and Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, the annual bite cases here have not shown a major decline.

Data of the past decade from Valley’s only anti-rabies clinic at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) in Srinagar reveals a constant increase in the number of dog bite cases.

In the period 2009-10, the clinic recorded 3,711 people getting animal bites, a majority of them caused by dogs. The number shot up to 7,324 cases in 2015-16 and since then around 6,500 animal bite cases have been documented at the clinic annually. Around 55,000 animal bite victims have reported to the anti-rabies clinic from 2009 to 2019. These cases are beside the dog bite incidents reported in the towns and villages of Kashmir.

“Annually 6-7 thousand dog bite cases are reported by the SMHS clinic, run by the department of community medicine, where anti-rabies vaccines and rabies immunoglobulin are provided free of cost to the bite victims,” said Dr Muhammad Salim Khan, head of community medicine at Government Medical College and Hospital, Srinagar.

On the occasion of World Rabies Day, the department in collaboration with non-profit organisation ECHO organised a webinar on this year’s global theme ‘End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate’.

“The cases of rabies are still reported. However, such patients don’t come to the anti-rabies clinic and are treated in general hospitals,” Khan said.

Stray dogs menace has remained a persistent issue in Kashmir, particularly in capital Srinagar, where conservative estimates put the dog population anywhere around 60,000. With animal rights activists against any culling of dogs, the animal birth control (ABC) or sterilisation measures by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) authorities started in 2013 to control the dog population have often been described as sluggish.

“The sterilisation is not happening. We have numerous dogs on the roads. Outside the state, stray dogs starve due to lack of food but here they get protein-rich diets in the form of animal wastes. Even after eight years, the ABC is not showing results,” Khan said.

The SMC’s veterinary officer, Dr Javaid Rather, said their ABC programme at Shuhama was on a halt since August 5, 2019, when the Valley was put under restrictions followed by lockdown due to Covid-19 in March 2020.

“Due to the pandemic, there was no work. We started ABC again at Shuhama from September 1 where we are sterilising 8 dogs on an average daily,” he said.

The official said the construction of another facility at Tengpora, where they could perform 50 sterilisations a day, would still take two to three months to complete.

He said they were trying to implement a two-pronged approach. “We are trying to minimise the availability of garbage to the dogs and in the long term we are hopeful to implement the sterilisation programme after our infrastructure is in place,” he said.

“We believe the dog bites are stabilising and showing some decline in Srinagar,” he claimed.

GFX

Canine attack

A year-wise breakup of the animal bite cases reported at the anti-rabies clinic of SMHS Hospital, Srinagar:

Year Number of cases

2009-10 3,711

2010-11 4,515

2011-12 4,154

2012-13 4,489

2013-14 6,041

2014-15 4,917

2015-16 7,324

2016-17 6,548

2017-18 6,802

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