Dog bite dilemma
Vaccinating stray dogs has not yet proven to be an effective way to control the surging cases of rabies-infected people because these dogs are reproducing at a much faster rate. Despite vaccinating 300,000 stray dogs through a rabies control programme conducted in Karachi, 7,000 cases of dog bite have been reported till date. This concern, therefore, needs extra attention from the provincial government.
The average lifespan of a dog ranges from 10 to 13 years. A stray dog reaches its reproduction age at about 6 to 12 months. The gestation period is around 58 to 68 days, and an average litter of a dog consists of about six puppies. Hence, reproduction rate is fast and the strategy of mass vaccination of dogs to prevent the transmission of the rabies infection can never be fruitful until a massive well-thought-out campaign is devised. According to WHO, rabies is a neglected disease in Pakistan. The weaknesses reported by the organisation for rabies control include a poor surveillance system, limited access to anti-rabies vaccine, insufficient resources and political support, and lack of collaboration between inter-provincial departments.
The solution demands satisfactory treatment of dog-bit patients in both government and private sectors, sufficient supply of anti-rabies vaccines throughout the province, adequate supervision and feedback system regarding anti-rabies vaccination, firm collaboration between government and healthcare areas, robust trap-neuter-release (TNR) programmes for dogs at mass scale, and public awareness programmes about the issue. It must be ensured that all domestic dogs in the city are vaccinated. People must register their complaints regarding stray dogs at the helpline number provided by Sindh Government.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2021.