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3 to 5K people died of Rabies in Kashmir in past 10 years

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Directorate Health Services acts as cover on chilling terror by stray dogs

Srinagar: Even as the structured naked dance of death in Kashmir due to armed conflict has ebbed, human life continues to be wasted ‘cheaply’ as a result of rabies due to dog bites.

Although the exact burden of rabies in Jammu and Kashmir is not known, around 3000 to 5000 people have reportedly succumbed to the deadly virus during the past 10 years. The viral, “unpreventable” rabies deaths are mostly caused by dog bites.

People are dying of rabies without being noticed, public health professionals and experts say.

To confirm the exact data about dog bites, its treatment and the number of deaths due to the fatal rabies virus, this scribe telephoned and dispatched repeated messages to the Publicity Officer and SSO at the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir.

The officers exhibited their archetypal minion clerkship and behaved as if they were the “custodians of a top national secret”. They chose not to answer any of the queries relating to a grave subject of public interest.

Trying to be “loyal than the king and holier than the Pope”, these officials feigned such secrecy that one could only wonder about their motivation; they seem to have forgotten the data is a public document and should have long been in the public domain.

A mail was also sent to the Director Health Services Kashmir on the specified subject but it remained unanswered till this story was filed.

‘Kashmir Images’ pledges to update this story with the official take – including date — if the “lords” of the Health Directorate choose to share any.

However, one wonders at the style and functioning of some in the downward hierarchy in J&K’s administration, where otherwise the top bureaucracy and even the political executive swears by the mantra of transparency and swiftness.

As per a recent report by the Department of Community Medicines, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, around 10,000 persons are bitten by dogs every year in municipal jurisdictions of Jammu and Srinagar alone.

The number of dog bites happening in villages and towns across the Union Territory is almost 30,000, said an internee at the department, requesting anonymity. He said hundreds of people catch rabies every year in Kashmir and succumb to the fatal virus.

Sajjad Ahmad, a social worker, said that anti-rabies treatment is not available in peripheral hospitals in Kashmir. In case it is available in any hospital, it is of substandard quality.

The facility for maintenance of temperature required for the storage of the anti-rabies injections is also not available in the peripheral hospitals. He alleged the priorities of the authorities at the Health department are “self-centric and not people centric”.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease which occurs in poorer countries. Dogs are, according to the global health organization, the main source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths.

Rabies, according to WHO, causes 18,000-20,000 deaths every year in India. Up to 60 percent of reported rabies cases and deaths occur in children of poor social and economic backgrounds under the age of 15 years.

Rabies deaths in humans are 100 percent preventable through prompt and appropriate medical care, said Dr M Salim Khan, Head Department of Community Medicines, GMC Srinagar.

Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people, but this facility is not available in the region, he said, adding that quality and free anti-rabies treatment is provided to thousands of patients at the GMC’s Anti-Rabies Centre every year.

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