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Sunday May 29, 2022

‘Over 50,000 citizens bitten by stray dogs every year in Karachi alone’

July 10, 2021

Health experts identify poor solid waste management system as cause of rapidly growing population of canines in city

Every year, around 50,000 citizens are bitten by stray dogs in Karachi alone, where the estimated number of pye-dogs living on the streets is around 200,000, experts said on Friday and blamed the poor solid-waste management as the root cause of the growing number of canines in the city and the rest of the province. “At least 129 people have also lost their lives due to rabies encephalitis during the last 10 years at Karachi’s two hospitals, i.e. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) and Indus Hospital Karachi. There is a need to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of stray dogs in the city to achieve herd immunity against rabies instead of culling the canines,” said Dr Naseem Salahuddin, head of the department of infectious diseases at the Indus Health Network, on Friday. Briefing the veterinarians fromdifferent cities of Sindh on a Rabies-Free Pakistan project, a joint initiative of the Indus Health Network and Getz Pharma, she said that although rabies is a 100 preventable disease through vaccination, unfortunately, dozens of people are dying due to this 100 per cent fatal disease because of ignorance and lack of vaccination. According to Dr Salahuddin, despite the growing incidence of canine attacks, there is no policy on stray dog control while there are also inadequate veterinary services available in the country. She said the unavailability of the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) was also a serious issue, which was leading to deaths due to rabies encephalitis in the country. “Our plan is to eliminate rabies from the soil of Pakistan in the next 10 years, which looks an ambitious target but it is achievable.” In case of a person bitten by a stray dog, his or her wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water immediately and some disinfectant should be applied to the wound, she said, adding that every person who was bitten by a stray dog must be vaccinated with the ARV and they must complete their vaccination. As far as the Rabies-Free Pakistan project was concerned, she said, in collaboration with Getz Pharma, they were vaccinating the stray dogs against rabies, for which the World Health Organisation (WHO) had provided them 50,000 vaccine doses. She added that the idea was to vaccinate 70 per cent of the stray dogs to achieve herd immunity against the highly fatal infectious disease. “Most of the people, distressed by the growing population of stray dogs both in urban and rural areas, demand mass killing of canines, but this is an inhumane approach. The solution is the One Health approach, which will not only reduce the population of the stray dogs humanely over time, but also eliminate rabies.” Prof Abdullah Arijo from the Sindh Agricultural University Tandojam said collaborative efforts were required to deal with the issue of stray dogs. He opined that instead of culling the stray dogs, they should be vaccinated and neutered to control their population. Director Commercial Getz Pharma Dr Khurram Hussain said their firm decided to cooperate with the Indus Health Network and the civil society to eliminate rabies from the country as community service, and hoped that their collaboration would result in positive outcomes for the society as well as for animals. A public health expert from Getz Pharma, Dr Wajiha Javed, also spoke.

Most of the people, distressed by the growing population of stray dogs both in urban and rural areas, demand mass killing of canines, but this is an inhumane approach

— Dr Naseem Salahuddin, Head of the department of infectious diseases at Indus Health Network

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