Would it surprise you to read that about 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India each year, most of those when children come into contact with infected dogs?
What is rabies?
Rabies is caused by a virus that is transmitted to humans through the infected saliva of a range of animals. But most human deaths follow a bite by, or exposure to, an infected dog.
There was a time when the infected person had to get 16 injections of an anti-rabies vaccine on the abdomen. Today, with advancement in medical sciences, the patient is not subjected to such a treatment.
28 September is commemorated as World Rabies Day. It is the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur, who developed the first rabies vaccine and laid the foundations of rabies prevention.
The theme for this year is “Zero by 30”, meaning zero human deaths from canine rabies by 2030. However, one of the major problems with combating rabies is the high cost of treatment. The rabies immunoglobulins are calculated as per the patient’s body weight, which is a costly proposition.
As per a report in The News Minute, a new protocol to treat rabid dog bite patients can prove to be a breakthrough that even the World Health Organisation recommends it as one of the least expensive therapies in the world, cutting costs almost a 100 times. For a single treatment, the price worldwide was expected to reach just a few dollars.
Omesh Kumar Bharti, a field epidemiologist with the Himachal Pradesh government, explaining why the cost would be reduced said that the new protocol involves injecting rabies immunoglobulins only in the wound, which further neutralises the rabies virus in the wound within hours.
Earlier, the patient was administered a vaccine intradermally along with rabies immunoglobulins that were injected both into the wound and muscle.
Omesh Bharti, who took almost 17 years to conceptualise and implement this new protocol says, “What sensitised me towards the cause was that while there was a shortage of lifesaving rabies immunoglobulins, its cost too was unaffordable for victims of dogs and monkey bites, who were mainly the poor.”
With this, the cost of treatment is expected to come down to just Rs 350 ($5.50) from the existing Rs 35,000 ($545) per patient. With the WHO endorsing this new protocol, doctors believe that many more patients will have access to this treatment.
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