World Rabies Day

28 September this year marks the 16th World Rabies Day. According to WHO, this year’s theme ‘Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths’ will highlight the connection of the environment with both people and animals.

The day, also observed globally to mark the death anniversary of French biologist, microbiologist and chemist, Louis Pasteur, who developed the first rabies vaccine, is observed to raise awareness about the impact of the viral disease and how to prevent it.

As per the WHO, it is about raising awareness about the impact of rabies on humans and animals, providing information and advice on how to prevent the disease in at-risk communities and supporting advocacy for increased efforts in rabies control.

It is an important day for the world to acknowledge the terror in people of the disease. Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans, according to the world health body. In Jammu and Kashmir context, it should be about tackling challenges posted by the ever increasing canine population.

It is a frightening sight to see packs of dogs on the prowl in streets of the city and villages across the Valley.

The canines have been storming streets, chasing cars, pulling down bicycle riders and often attacking pedestrians and children in Kashmir.

Amid this, there is also extreme polarisation on this issue between the advocates of human rights versus animal rights. The lack of a critical and scientific analysis is glaring.

Every year, hundreds of people are bitten by dogs. Around 99% of rabies cases are due to dog bites globally, about 40 percent of the victims being children, according to the WHO, which has announced a campaign to reduce human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies across the globe to zero by 2030.

For rabies, the link is direct. Wherever there are people, there are dogs. If dogs are suffering and dying from rabies, humans will also suffer and die.  Dogs also contribute to deaths involving road accidents besides direct attacks.

The dog population has grown rather than reduced in Kashmir in recent past, notwithstanding some surveys which restricted their domain to a few areas of Srinagar.

Sterilization has also proved ineffective and the results never turned out to be at par with the desired objective. In contrast, stray dogs have only grown in number and that too alarmingly. There is a need to get serious on the issue and look for serious alternatives.

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