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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Indian doctors want cheaper rabies drugs
Stray dog
Stray dogs are the major carriers of rabies
By Geeta Pandey in Delhi

Nearly 30,000 people in India die of rabies every year.

Doctors say 90% of all rabies cases are caused by dogbites, and the problem assumes serious proportions considering that India reports 3m dogbites every year.

According to an estimate, India has a stray dog population of 25m, which means there is one stray dog for every 40 people.

As the world observes World Rabies Day on 6 July, doctors are asking the government to check the stray dog menance and to make available cheaper anti-rabies drugs.

The Association for Prevention and Control of Rabies in India (APCRI) has called upon the government to rehabilitate the stray dogs in areas where they will not be a threat to humans.

APCRI president Dr MK Sudarshan says rabies is a fatal disease, but it can be prevented if proper treatment is given.

Drug not available

But the non-availability of immunoglobin, a drug essential in the treatment of rabies, is resulting in a lot of deaths.

Dr Sudarshan says India produces only 120 litres of the drug against an annual demand of 1,500 litres.

This shortfall, he says, has to be met by imports.

Dr Amlan Goswami, who runs an anti-rabies clinic in Calcutta, says the drug has not been available since May.

Also, most anti-rabies vaccines being used in government-run hospitals are banned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as they can sometimes cause paralysis of the limbs and affect the nervous system.

Moreover, the administration of these vaccines is very painful. The shots have to be taken in the abdomen on a daily basis for 14 days, and very few patients complete the course.

Expensive options

But the modern tissue-culture-based vaccines, which need only five shots, and have the WHO approval, are very expensive and out of the reach of most people.

To focus attention on the disease and generate public awareness, the APRCRI is holding a two-day conference in the southern city of Bangalore, beginning Saturday.

Scientists from the WHO, France, the US, Germany, Thailand and Sri Lanka will meet at the conference to review the rabies control strategy in India.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Americas
Mexican bats cause rabies outbreak
09 Jun 99 | Europe
Swede's cat in rabies challenge
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