KARACHI - Despite repeated claims of provincial health department about having anti-rabies vaccine at public hospitals, only bread earner and father of six children, Muhammad Saleem, died in Karachi on Tuesday due to absence of the vaccine.

Saleem, a resident of Surjani Town, was admitted to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) for a past week, where he breathed his last on Tuesday.

Provincial Minister for Health Dr Azra Fazl Pechuhu claimed that there was no shortage of the rabies vaccine in the provincial hospitals, however what happened to Saleem totally denies the claim made by the minister, who also happens to be the sister of the PPP President Asif Ali Zardari.

Six weeks ago, Saleem who was a tailor by profession, went out with his minor daughter to buy some sweets. On his way to a shop, a stray dog started barking at him and in an attempt to save her daughter, Saleem tried to stop it.

The dog bit Saleem at his hand and was rescued by some of the passersby. He was initially taken to a nearby Sindh Government Hospital New Karachi and then to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, but both these hospitals did not have the anti-rabies vaccine, commonly known as ARV.

Over 200,000 dog-bite cases reported in Sindh

A KMC official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that there was no vaccine at the time that dog bite incident reported, however, these vaccines are now available at some KMC run hospitals after orders from Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhter.

“We are facing acute shortage of funds due to reluctance of the provincial authorities to provide due share of the local government,” he said.

The family later brought the vaccine from outside but even the proper dosage of the vaccine was not administered to him in ASH. 

A report said that experts believe that any person who is bitten by a stray dog should be immediately given immunoglobulin and four to five doses of the anti-rabies vaccine in order to avoid spread of lethal and incurable rabies disease.

Director Emergency department JPMC Dr Seemi Jamali confirmed the death of Muhammad Saleem and said that he was brought to the hospital a week back when the rabies virus spread inside him and could not be cured.

“The only thing we could do is to ease his suffering at the isolation ward as it is a lethal disease,” she said adding that the patient died late Monday night.

The health authorities in the province had claimed that over 200,000 cases of dog-bite had been reported from across Sindh, including over 90,000 in Karachi alone.

However, the municipal authorities responsible for dealing with it are unable to play their role in this regard.

Responding to lack of campaign to kill stray dogs, a KMC official said the DMCs were responsible for carrying out campaigns to kill dogs. We also support them but it is them who are solely responsible for it, he said.

He further said that the campaign is also affected due to some understanding at official level from international non-governmental organisations to avoid killing these dogs and rather vaccinate them.