India being a high burden country for rabies, it is necessary that the authorities adopt measures to eradicate this zoonotic disease while the country’s healthcare system is still reeling from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
FIAPO underscores that in order to effectively implement such a nationwide programme, it’s important for rabies to be declared a notifiable disease. “Changing the disease’s official status is the key to eradicating rabies. When there is a case of rabies, all people and animals who are at risk need to be immediately identified, treated, and vaccinated. Such a speedy protocol can only be implemented if rabies is made a notifiable disease,” says Bharati Ramachandran, CEO – FIAPO.
Mass killings of dogs have recently occurred across India. In Karnataka’s Shivamogga district, 150 stray dogs were allegedly buried alive in September 2021. Around 300 dogs were allegedly culled in Lingapalem village of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. In Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, five dogs died after having acid poured on them.
“FIAPO understands the concern of people affected by rising human-dog conflicts. However, research shows that such incidents arise from a fear of dog bites, misinformation, and overpopulation. The sense of hostility and anger that can develop in communities and individuals towards stray dogs following these altercations is often ignored. So there should not only be post-bite counselling to counter this, but through a coordinated governmental effort, the incident can be turned to an educational one – by informing children and adults alike of behaviours best suited to prevent bites, and thus rabies itself.
This calls for a massive coordinated push – at the national and state-levels – for a countrywide Anti Rabies Vaccination programme for stray and pet dogs at regular intervals. This needs to go hand in hand with the ABC programme to stop overpopulation.
FIAPO has demanded the provision of immediate post-bite treatment (through onsite first-aid stations) and administration of the rabies shot to bitten individuals. People should be educated on regular vaccination and sterilization of their companion animals, and medical aid in case of dog bite.
Since 2017, FIAPO has been researching and actively working towards tackling rabies through its campaign “Rabies Free India,” in line with WHO’s ‘One Health’ approach. The campaign – implemented in Kerala, Punjab and Assam – aims at ensuring that better policies are put in place and communities empowered to provide quality care to animals.
On World Rabies Day, FIAPO has also released a video to create awareness among the masses about the disease. It aims at showing the signs and symptoms of a dog bite and immediate measures to prevent the risk of rabies infection in the bitten human. The video was produced in a collaborative effort with the University of Edinburgh’s research project, “Remaking Zoopolis: People Street-dog Cohabitation and Rabies Prevention in India”.