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Rabies deaths down by a third in three years in India, but snakebites continue to kill

health Updated: Aug 07, 2017 10:51 IST
Rabies,snake bites,National Rabies Control Programme

Anti-rabies vaccination has helped bring down deaths from rabies, 97% of which spreads to humans through the saliva of infected dogs.(Burhaan Kinu(HT FILE))

India has registered a more than 30% drop in deaths from rabies over the past three years, but the fall in snakebite deaths is just 5% , said minister of state for health Anupriya Patel in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

The data submitted in Parliament was for 2014 to 2016.

In 2014, 125 rabies deaths were reported from across India, which fell to 113 in 2015 and 86 in 2016.

West Bengal was the worst affected state, with 47 rabies deaths in 2016, followed by Karnataka with 19 deaths.

“Without treatment, the disease is 100% fatal and how well the animal bite is managed is crucial in preventing disease and death,” says an expert at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Dogs are responsible for about 97% of human rabies, cats cause 2% cases and monkeys, mongoose and others account for 1%.

The virus is found in mostly wild and some domesticated animals, and spreads to other animals and humans in saliva through bites, scratches or licks on broken skin or mucous membrane.

“The wound should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water as quickly as possible after the bite and the first anti-rabies vaccine should be given at once. The rest of the three doses should be taken on the 3rd, 7th and 28th day,” said the expert.

Anti-rabies vaccines are effective in cases of scratches or superficial bites but those who have deep wounds or a wound that bleeds, an anti-rabies serum is also recommended.

The shots are given for free at all public hospitals and clinics, but the market cost of the serum is between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500. The vaccine costs around Rs 300 per shot, with the dose depending on the weight of the person bitten.

India’s National Rabies Control Programme includes initiatives such as mass vaccination of dogs, dog-population management and tracking and treating cases to stop the spread of rabies and prevent death.

Deaths due to snake bites dropped marginally from 1,122 in 2014 to 1,064 in 2016.

West Bengal again was the worst -affected states in terms of numbers, with 138 people dying of snake bites last year, followed by Odisha with 128 deaths, and Madhya Pradesh with 113 deaths.

Deaths were highest in 2015, when 1,219 people died of snakebites.

“The Centre provides assistance under National Health Mission to the states to strengthen health infrastructure for treatment of diseases and to deal with health emergencies, including snake bites,” said Patel.

First Published: Aug 07, 2017 10:51 IST