Rabies continues to claim lives, four die in one month

Kathmandu, February 8

As many as four persons, who were referred to Sukraraj Tropical Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, after being infected with rabies died last month.

According to the hospital, a 30-year-old man from Sankhu, a 19-year-old woman from Bara, and a 38-year-old woman from Dolakha died while undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Similarly, a 12-year-old boy from Lalitpur breathed his last at his home after doctors discharged him from the hospital as his condition was beyond cure.

Rabies is a preventable disease, but unfortunately due to lack of knowledge about rabies, more than 50 persons are dying in the country due to rabies infection every year. In the fiscal 2017/18, 32 people lost their lives due to rabies, eight lost their lives in 2016/17, six in 2015/16, 13 in 2014/15, 10 in 2013/14, 68 in 2012/13, 76 in 2011/12 and 2008/09 saw 97 rabies deaths, which is the highest in a decade.

“Many people don’t seek treatment due to lack of awareness about rabies vaccination,” shared Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at STIDH. Most people come to hospital only after they develop the symptoms of rabies.  “The hospital provides free vaccine for rabies. On an average, the hospital administers rabies vaccine to 150 people on a daily basis,” he said.

Dogs, the predominant host of rabies, can become infected from any rabid wild animal, and then infect humans. Dogs showing symptoms may bite a human, but they can also transmit the virus simply by licking if their saliva comes into contact with a scratch, damaged skin, or mucosa.

The rabies virus hijacks the nervous system and manipulates neural processes to make its host move faster. Infected humans will eventually hallucinate, become aggressive, and even fear water in the advanced stages of the disease.

Once these symptoms appear, rabies has no known cure and death is almost certain. Fortunately, unlike most vaccine-preventable diseases, rabies allows for post-exposure inoculation, because the time of infection is generally known by the victim — especially if they were bitten — and the disease’s incubation period is relatively long, ranging from days to years, but averaging three to eight weeks.