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No let up in dog bite cases

KARACHI: The megacity is enduring unceasing stray dog bite cases, while the municipalities concerned and other related departments and authorities at the helm of affairs appear either incapable or lethargic towards resolving this serious issue that has left many people wounded and rendered much more fearful.

Figures related to dog bite cases acquired from five major healthcare centres suggest that on average 150 people were rushed there every day after being bitten by dogs in different localities of Karachi. The victims reported some minor or deep wounds caused on their body including faces and chests, however, they were administered vaccine doses against dog bites at selective hospitals, said the head of a dog bite treatment setting.

Prof Dr Jamal Raza, Director National Institute of Child Health (NICH), told Social Track that only last week a five-year-old girl, who was severely attacked by a stray dog in PECHS area, was brought to the hospital with major injuries on her head and face.

The baby was originally rushed to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) where the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) was administered to her, according to Executive Director JPMC Dr Seemin Jamali.

Prof Raza mentioned that the child was better now, saying doctors were continuing antibiotic dose to cover the wound infection.

Replying to a question, he said that NICH did not have any dog-bite clinic, but all children brought with dog bite wounds are given treatment in the emergency section of the hospital like vaccination and first-aid. “Children with severe wounds are obviously admitted and treated accordingly,” Prof Raza added.

According to the physicians, timely vaccination of people falling prey to dog bites protects them from developing rabies –a fatal disease transmitted from animals to humans. “Once the neurological symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is fatal to both animals and humans.”

The number of dog bite cases has been on the rise every year owing to the slackness on the part of municipal authorities, who held a physician, saying that increasing public awareness on dog bite was the best defense against rabies.

Among the 11 deaths that occurred due to rabies at JPMC in 2020, two were from Karachi. The Indus Hospital received 7,300 dog bites cases in 2020, of which four died there, it was learnt on authority.

When an official was reminded that Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had collaborated with an NGO over a year-and-a-half ago while pledging to get rid of this menace, and asked to share something done positive in this regard, he straightly replied: “No achievement, sir”.

Commenting on the persisting dog-bite cases in Karachi and other cities of the province, a senior citizen said: “It seems people at the helm of affairs use to make plans merely on papers and they make big claims but not even little of their ‘big work’ is seen materialising on the ground”.

Literature research revealed that the Sindh Local Government Department had also launched a campaign to curb the stray dog population a couple of years ago. The campaign, designed by the Central district, was to be replicated in other districts of Karachi that emphasized the training of staff to catch, vaccinate and sterilize dogs, however, nothing of the sort happened to achieve the purpose.

At the same time, in the wake of reported stances from the leaders of non-governmental organizations and some animal-friendly civil society members, controlling the dog population through traditional methods of culling and poisoning was also kept in abeyance.

When contacted, senior medical officer of KMC, Dr Abdul Wahid Jumani, said that stray dogs happen to be a multi-stakeholder subject, while KMC, particularly its health directorate, had little power to act directly mainly due to the devolution of many functions to the district municipalities. “I understand that the veterinary departments at all levels of the government should be involved in the dog-population control exercise.”

Replying to a question, Dr Jumani said that two general hospitals of KMC, including Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, have been dealing with the dog bite cases coming from parts of districts Central, West, Korangi and Malir. “At Abbasi hospital, on an average five such cases, including three new cases, are being brought every day, which are duly vaccinated and examined,” he said, mentioning that ARVs are readily available at the hospital.

Doctor Seemin Jamali said that JPMC received 6,636 bite cases, including 2,195 new cases, this year by March 9 from Karachi and other parts of Sindh, in comparison to 8,875 cases reported during 2020. She said that the hospital provided 4-dose ARV to patients it received round the year.

A source in Civil Hospital Karachi said that the hospital’s dog-bite clinic received as many as 491 new and old dog-bite cases during the year till March 13. The rate of new cases could be estimated around six out of 10, the source added.

An official in the Karachi directorate of Sindh Health Services shared that about 4,000 new and old dog bite cases were seen and vaccinated against rabies at various hospitals, rural and urban health clinics and basic health clinics controlled by the Sindh government in Karachi during 2020.

The Indus Hospital handled as many as 9,025 new dog-bite cases during a period from January 2020 to February 2021, while a Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA’s) dog-bite clinic in Federal B Area registered 1,395 new cases during the same period.

President PMA, Karachi chapter, Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, said that after a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of dog-bite cases reported at the PMA clinic was increasing again. Most of the injury inflicted people at the clinic were children up to 15 years, followed by 50-plus men and women, who were provided with first-aid treatment and ARV, he said, adding that as many as 1,520 registered patients received the follow-up vaccines in 2020.

He further said that the PMA clinic covers various areas, including New Karachi, Orange town, Hub area, Gaddap town, and Nooriabad. A number of patients who reported severe injuries and deep wounds were also shifted through free ambulance service to the tertiary care hospitals for further treatment, Dr. Shoro added.


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