India At Great Risk of A Rabies Pandemic

 

In 2001, an unwise law came into effect all over the nation. Nobody can kill a stray dog anymore. Within the next ten years, India’s stray dog population skyrocketed, with the result that no other country suffers so much from dog bite and rabies. Numbering in hundreds of millions, they bite millions of people every year, and kill around 20,000 people every year with rabies. That number is more than a third of the global rabies toll!

According to a New York Times report on this great menace in India, ‘the stray population has increased so much that officials across the country have expressed alarm’. But still, nobody can euthanize a stray, and the dogs are now rapidly taking over the city lanes.

One of the solutions suggested by a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, although seemly a practical solution, was not taken seriously by the lawmakers. He proposed exporting the strays to China — where dogmeat is in demand — after more than 15,000 people in the state reported being bitten during a year.

Writes The New York Times:

‘India’s place as the global center for rabid dogs is an ancient one: the first dog ever infected with rabies most likely was Indian, said Dr. Charles Rupprecht, chief of the rabies program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.’

The main reason that India is hesitating in doing something concrete to eradicate rabies is because of the special relationship that Indian pariah dogs have been maintaining with Indians since ancient times.

‘While that relationship has largely disappeared in the developed world, it remains the dominant one in India, where strays survive on the ubiquitous mounds of garbage. Some are fed and collared by residents who value them as guards and as companions, albeit distant ones. Hindus oppose the killing of many kinds of animals.’   ‘Where Streets Are Thronged With Strays Baring Fangs’, The New York Times – nytimes.com

India does not have much time left. Unless it acts with utmost urgency to solve this problem, it is not only exposing itself to increased dog attacks, but to a rabies pandemic that could kill potentially millions of people.

‘More than a dozen experts interviewed said that India’s stray problem would only get worse until a canine contraceptive vaccine, now in the lab, became widely and inexpensively available.

Dr. Rosario Menezes, a pediatrician from Goa, said that India could not wait that long. Dogs must be taken off the streets even if that means euthanizing them, he said. “I am for the right of people to walk the streets without fear of being attacked by packs of dogs,” he said.’   Ibid

Widespread fatal attack of humans by ‘beasts’ is one of the four calamities foretold in the Bible that would destroy a quarter of the world’s population. And the stray dog, unless eradicated, could be the most numerous of such attackers.

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