Our usually trusting, usually friendly street dogs are often at the receiving end of horrible abuse and anger, because of the wide-spread (and absurd) belief that they’re easily rabid, and routinely spread rabies. The information being disseminated by organizations believed to be responsible seems to contribute to this erroneous belief. There is a figure doing the rounds – that around 20,000 people die of rabies annually, in India; and this is what is thrown at people who argue for compassion, and compassionate, scientific, lawful handling of street dogs. But is this figure of 20,000 human deaths on account of rabies, correct even when the govt insists on NOT not having rabies as a notifiable disease in India?
An application under the Right to Information Act made by one of The Voice of Stray Dogs lawyers, to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, regarding authentic rabies deaths figures for India, State-wise and Year-wise, had elicited the
following response :
- In the year 2010 : 162 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2009 : 263 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2008 : 262 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2007 : 243 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2006 : 341 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2005 : 236 rabies deaths in India
- In the year 2004 : 534 rabies deaths in India
The Response to RTI, with State-wise, Year-wise figures of rabies deaths, can be seen HERE. This response is based on the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (i.e. the CBHI) figures, and very specifically affirms that all States and Union Territories report their rabies deaths figures to the CBHI.
The CBHI, which was established in 1961, is the National nodal Institute for Health Intelligence in the country. It is an integral part of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, and is located at Nirman Bhavan, New Delhi.
The CBHI has 6 (six) Health Information Field Survey in different Regional Offices of Health and Family Welfare at Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Lucknow & Patna; Director with Technical & Support staff, who function under the Director (HFW/GOI).
CBHI personnel train at the Regional Health Statistics Training Centre (RHSTC) of the CBHI at Mohali, Punjab (near Chandigarh), and at other equally relevant training centres.
The Bulletin of the World Health Organization however states in an article entitled ‘India’s ongoing war against rabies’, that 20,000 of an estimated global annual 55000 rabies deaths occur in India.
The APCRI, i.e. the Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India, established in 1998, which affirms that it is the Anti-Rabies pioneer in India, and that it is ‘leading the war against the Rabies Menace in India through advocacy, `research, awareness creating and more’, seems simply to have lifted / endorsed the WHO figure, and states that : “Every year more than 20,000 people die in India due to Rabies. This accounts for nearly 36% of the total death due to Rabies world-wide.”
Ironically, one of Aims and Objectives of the APCRI is stated to be : ‘To undertake a national epidemiological surveillance to study the true figure of rabies deaths in our country so that we know the real extent of this disease and its distribution in our country’.
There is obviously a GLARING MISMATCH between the APCRI affirmation, and the State-wise and Year-wise figures for rabies deaths provided by the National Centre for Disease Control (formerly the National Institute of Communicable Diseases) at the
instance of the Ministry of Health, in response to an RTI application addressed to the Ministry of Health.
It is however obvious that rabies death figures have altered substantially; and that there are no longer as many rabies deaths in India as popularly believed to be – definitely not 20,000 a year. In view of the figures received in response to the RTI application to the Ministry of Health, perhaps the APCRI needs to do as stated to be one of its ‘Aims & Objectives’ : “To undertake a national
epidemiological surveillance to study the true figure of rabies deaths in our country so that we know the real extent of this disease and its distribution in our country.”