In addition, large increases in dog populations bring another set of problems. According to a 2004 study conducted by the Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India (and sponsored by the United Nations’ World Heath Organization), approximately 17 million people in India are bitten by dogs each year, or roughly one person every two seconds. Nationwide, the vast majority of the victims belong to “poor” or “low-income” economic groups (75 percent), and in rural areas the consequences fall especially heavily on these poorer groups (80.3 percent).
While dog attacks are by themselves significant, dogs in India are also the primary vector for the transmission of rabies to humans, accounting for approximately 96 percent of all transmissions. There are, therefore, fears that the incidence of rabies in India may be beginning to climb as a result of the increasing number of dogs. It is estimated that already 60 percent of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India: approximately 25,000 to 30,000 per year, or one death every thirty minutes. While vaccinations are available for rabies, and seem to be reaching many people, the total number of deaths from rabies is decreasing only slightly—perhaps due to the enormous number of people being exposed to the disease in recent years. It should not be forgotten that rabies causes a horrifically painful death. The guide of the British Medical Association (BMA) notes, “Once clinical symptoms of rabies appear, there is no known cure and the victim is virtually certain to die an agonizing and terrifying death.”
Like anthrax and dog attacks, rabies does not affect all social groups equally. The aforementioned 2004 study concluded that not only are more people from “poor” or “low-income” socioeconomic groups bitten, but these people also account for 87.6 percent of all those killed by rabies. In addition, most of the victims are adult males, and the study noted that their deaths frequently place additional economic hardships on families.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Slightly altered for posting here, this extract is from an essay that the journal I work for will be publishing in a few months. Note that statistical data are reported here, so most of the numbers are in digits.