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World Rabies Day is observed on 28 September every year to spread awareness about rabies and promote global co-operation for its elimination. In case you didn’t know, rabies is a deadly virus that causes an infection in both animals and humans. The infection attacks the central nervous system and the brain and is fatal once symptoms start to appear. Rabies is also a highly preventable disease, if only you take timely precautions against it.

Rabies in India

The rabies virus is usually transmitted to humans through animal bites and has a high prevalence in India. The World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that India accounts for almost 36% of the global deaths due to rabies. The Indian National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says that rabies is endemic throughout India and cases emerge throughout the year in all areas except Andaman & Nicobar and the Lakshadweep Islands.

About 96% of the mortality and morbidity in humans due to rabies is associated with dog bites, but rabies cases have also been reported after bites or scratches from cats, monkeys, wolves, jackals and mongoose. Bat rabies, though unreported in India, has a high incidence in other countries like the USA. The bite or scratch of any warm-blooded animals is suspected to have the ability to transmit rabies.

To face this immense challenge to health posed by the rabies virus, the WHO and NCDC joined hands in 2013 to institute the National Rabies Control Programme (NRCP), which aims to spread better awareness, provide healthcare facilities and vaccines and reduce – if not completely eliminate – rabies incidence in the country.

Preventing rabies in animals

Keeping proper surveillance and managing the canine population in India is the best way to prevent rabies in dogs and the NRCP is committed to this aim. The following are some simple steps you must take to prevent rabies in animals:

Get your warm-blooded pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret, vaccinated. Maintain a good record of your pet’s rabies vaccination, vaccine updates, etc.
Keep your pets under control so that they don’t bite others or get bitten by other animals.
If you don’t want your pets to breed, get them spayed or neutered to keep the population under control.
Ensure all stray cats and dogs in your area are vaccinated by getting in touch with your local municipality representatives or by coordinating with an animal welfare agency.
In case your pet is bitten by another animal, flush or wash the wound with soap and water and take your pet to the veterinarian immediately for the rabies vaccine as well as a tetanus injection. Keep your cat or dog, if bitten, under observation for 10 days.
Urge fellow pet owners, neighbours, friends and family to also follow the above-mentioned preventive steps.
Preventing rabies in humans

Rabies prevention among humans usually involves good outdoor behaviour and awareness of proper first aid and prophylaxis in case of a scratch or bite. The following are key rabies prevention steps you can take:

Leave animals alone. Don’t provoke a cat, dog, monkey or any animal while you’re outdoors. Stay well away from wild animals, whether you’re in a zoo, a cave or a safari.
In case you or someone around you gets scratched or bitten by an animal, flush or wash the affected area immediately and thoroughly with soap and water, povidone-iodine or other such substances.
If you or someone around you gets bitten by an animal, wash the area and contact a doctor or hospital to get the rabies immunoglobulin injection, a tetanus injection and an appropriate antibiotic course to prevent both rabies and sepsis.
In case of an animal bite, do not ignore the wound or apply damaging irritants like turmeric, chillies or lime to them.
Spread the above-mentioned precautions and first aid tips with everyone you know to ensure others are also protected against rabies.