ISLAMABAD-Rabid dogs exist in almost every corner of the world. The disease is endemic in almost 120 countries and nations like North America and Europe have been successful so far in eliminating this virus.

The rabies virus is dealt and controlled in almost every developing or developed country where the authorities eliminate the rabid dogs or cure them and provide anti-rabies vaccinations to every hospital to avoid the deaths caused by the venomous virus.

Pakistan is a nation where this noxious virus is neglected and so is wide-spreading throughout the country. As a school kid, this correspondent recalls a horrific incident where he was returning from school and encountered four vicious stray dogs which seemed aggressive and attacking. To his luck, he was able to enter the premises of his house without being bitten by any of the dogs.

Later, after a complaint, a team was sent by Capital Development Authority Islamabad that killed the dogs, which were infected by rabies and loaded the dead bodies in the truck for disposal.

There was also an event in this correspondent’s childhood where a boy was bitten severely by a dog in the neighbourhood but was cured after being treated with anti-rabies vaccination and other medicines.

Unfortunately, today, the authorities are neglecting this issue by failing to eliminate this deadly virus from dogs and as well as ignoring the circulation of anti-rabies vaccination in every hospital and clinic.

This correspondent had different interactions with the residents of Islamabad regarding this subject where most of them (residents) told that they were afraid to walk off the streets of Islamabad owing to these increasing rabid dogs.

Imtiaz Ahmad, a resident of sector I-8 stated that he was frightened to walk and jog in parks as stray dogs were roaming in every corner of the capital and the citizens are anxious about this matter.

In an exclusive talk with The Nation, the Executive Director National Institute of Health (ED NIH) Major General Aamer Ikram told that Pakistan faces up to 8 to 10 lakh cases of rabies per year out of which 5,000 fail to survive the deadly disease. He further showed his worries regarding the closure of rabies unit despite the spread of this disease and the rising death toll.

The correspondent asked the ED NIH about the development and planning he has started to counter the rabies virus to which Mr Ikram replied, “It’s been two years since I have chaired this post and before me, it was a mess. However, I have developed 0.2 million dosages of anti-rabies vaccines which was a project of Rs150 million.”

He also told that for the first time the authorities were developing a stock piling mechanism for the anti-rabies vaccination. He further elaborated that under the light of World health Organisation, they were launching goods manufacturing company, which will also be certified by International Organization for Standardization (ISO). According to him, up to 10 foreign departments were also facilitating Pakistan in making anti-rabies vaccination.

The development of anti-rabies vaccination is good but the elimination of rabid dogs is also important to avoid the disease and deaths caused by rabies.

Pakistan is recently acting very lenient in eliminating rabid dogs and killing them. This leniency occurred due to the pressure by NGOs and wild life organisations who insist on not killing the rabid dogs and cure them through proper mechanism.

However, the ED NIH also briefed about the dog killing stating that the elimination of rabid dogs is better than curing them which is a long and difficult process.

Therefore, to discuss the dog killing matter, this correspondent further contacted a top official of Metropolitan Cooperation Islamabad who insisted anonymity and told that the rabid dogs were still killed but in silence to avoid the pressure exerted by the NGO’s and other wild life organisations.

He also agreed to the point that owing to the pressure and criticism by the wild life NGOs, they had to show some lenience on rabid dog killings but still they were carrying out operations in silence as the disease was growing in the cities as well as the rural areas of the country.

Different researchers have revealed that most of the population were either unaware of the risk of rabies when bitten by rabid dogs, or do not seek the right treatment for its prevention.

Rabies is a serious viral infection that affects the brain and central nervous system.

It is a ‘zoonotic’ infection, which means it passes from animals to humans. The virus is transmitted to humans through animal bites but cannot spread between humans.

The UK has been rabies-free since the beginning of the 20th century, with the exception of rabies-like viruses in some wild bat species. The last recorded rabies case in the UK was in 2018 when a holiday maker was bitten by a cat in Morocco.

Pakistan should become serious in dealing with this venomous disease and start a proper mechanism in eliminating or curing the rabid dogs as well as providing the anti-rabies vaccination in every corner of the country.

Out of all the provinces of Pakistan, Sindh remains at top in both rabies dog bites and the death toll caused by it. The rest of the provinces are also not far behind in facing rabies cases.

Countries fight against the toxic disease by either eliminating the rabid dogs or curing them. They are also very efficient in providing and making anti-rabies vaccinations.

Therefore, we must also decide and plan immediately a proper mechanism to eradicate rabies from Pakistan to save almost a million people bitten by rabid dogs annually.