Debunking Rabies Myths: Understanding the Deadly Disease

Rabies, a terrifying viral disease, has recently made headlines with a tragic incident in Ghaziabad. In this article, we delve into the world of rabies, debunk common myths, and shed light on its impact in India.

The Grim Reality of Rabies in India

India's Disturbing Rabies Statistics India bears a heavy burden when it comes to rabies. It accounts for a staggering 36% of global rabies deaths, making it a persistent public health challenge. Globally, rabies ranks as the tenth-leading cause of death due to infectious diseases. Shockingly, India contributes to 65% of rabies-related deaths in the South-East Asia region. Between 2012 and 2022, the National Rabies Control Programme reported 6,644 clinically suspected cases of human rabies.

The Curable Yet Deadly Nature of Rabies

Understanding Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Rabies is often perceived as a death sentence once clinical signs manifest. However, it is entirely curable and preventable through Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) when administered promptly after an animal bite or exposure to the virus.

What Does PEP Involve? PEP entails a series of rabies vaccinations. If administered within 24 hours of exposure, it can effectively prevent the onset of symptoms and save lives.

Recognizing Early Symptoms

The Central Nervous System Attack Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. Dogs are responsible for up to 99% of rabies virus transmissions to humans, primarily through saliva via bites, scratches, or direct contact with mucosa (e.g., eyes, mouth, open wounds).

Incubation Period Variability The incubation period for rabies typically lasts two to three months but can vary from one week to one year. Factors such as the location of virus entry and viral load influence this duration.

Early Indicators of Rabies Early signs of rabies include fever, discomfort, tingling, pricking, or burning sensations at the wound site.

Myths About Rabies: Debunked

Myth 1: 14 Injections Needed to Prevent Rabies Reality: A Standard Five-Dose Schedule Contrary to popular belief, only five doses are required for PEP. The schedule begins from the day of exposure and continues on days 3, 7, 14, and 30. Doctors may adjust the number of injections based on the patient's condition.

Myth 2: Rabies Vaccine is Painful and Harmful Reality: Uncommon Adverse Reactions The rabies vaccine and immune globulin typically result in mild, uncommon adverse reactions, such as pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site.

Myth 3: Wait 10 Days to Observe the Animal Reality: Immediate Action is Crucial Delaying treatment to observe the animal is risky. Rabies-infected animals may show symptoms like unprovoked aggression and increased salivation. However, behavior alone is not a foolproof indicator of rabies. Immediate vaccination is necessary for PEP effectiveness.

Myth 4: Patients Mimic Dogs and their Voices Reality: Progression of Central Nervous System Inflammation As rabies advances in the central nervous system, patients do not mimic dogs but exhibit irritability towards noise and brightness, among other symptoms.

Taking Action Against Rabies

Preventive Measures for High-Risk Individuals People who routinely encounter animals or have pets should consider preventive rabies vaccination. Booster doses may be necessary in some cases.

Raising Awareness Among Children Children, who often face unrecognized and unreported bites, are at risk. Raising awareness about rabies prevention is crucial, as highlighted by Urvashi Prasad, director at Niti Aayog.

Stepping Up Efforts: Vaccination and Animal Welfare Prasad emphasizes the importance of increasing vaccination and spaying/neutering efforts for street animals. These initiatives remain key to eliminating rabies cost-effectively.

Collaborative Approach for Rabies Eradication Coordinated efforts involving government agencies, animal welfare NGOs, volunteers, and resident welfare associations are essential to combat rabies effectively.

In conclusion, understanding rabies, debunking myths, and promoting proactive measures can save lives and contribute to the elimination of this deadly disease in India.

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