Over 90,000 people, mostly children and women, are bitten by stray dogs in Karachi every year, and around 250 people report to different hospitals of Karachi for the treatment on dog-bite wounds every day, experts said and urged the people and authorities to take preventive measures to save people from contracting rabies.
Rabies is the most neglected tropical disease not only in Pakistan but also in all other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), they said, warning that if the bite is from an infected dog and remains untreated, rabies will develop and will definitely be fatal.
Speaking at an awareness walk in connection with World Rabies Day 2023, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Indus Hospital, said that it is extremely important for people to know that after a bite, one must wash the wound immediately and thoroughly with soap and water to wash out the dog saliva, must not apply home remedies, must cover it with a loose gauze dressing and head for a hospital which can give proper care.
“A rabid dog may transmit the virus to humans and other animals, including livestock. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the seriousness of a dog-bite and do not know what to do after a bite,” she said adding that many people mistakenly believe that water is harmful, and instead apply home remedies like oil, salt, chilies, etc., which are actually harmful as the virus gets deeper into the wound.
Those who are aware do not know which hospital they should go to for care, she said and urged people to take the patients to leading tertiary-care hospitals, including the Indus Hospital Karachi, for the treatment of the dog-bite wound and administration of anti-rabies vaccine.
Aftab Gohar, manager of the Rabies Prevention and Training Center at The Indus Hospital, said that over 250 adults and children report to different hospitals each day in Karachi alone, and hundreds more in rural Sindh.
He deplored that many hospitals are not equipped to treat dog- bites with the correct dose and technique of the anti-rabies vaccine and there is a lot of wastage. “At Indus Hospital in Korangi, we are imparting training to healthcare personnel and helping to raise their standard of care for dog-bite victims,” he added.
The hospitals in Karachi now equipped to treat dog-bites are the Indus Hospital Korangi, JPMC, Civil Hospital, NICH, Qatar Hospital, Children’s Hospital N. Nazimabad, he added.
Schoolchildren flashed posters appealing to the mayor to “please save us from rabies” and “we want a clean city”.
Mayor Murtaza Wahab listened patiently to all sides and agreed that the city needed a facelift with cleanliness, parks and gardens, but the public too must play its role in doing so. Littering with plastic throwaway bags and bottles created the largest volume of trash, he added.