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NEW DELHI : India has come up with a national action plan for dog-mediated rabies elimination by 2030, and has also declared rabies a notifiable disease. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is endemic for rabies and suffers approximately 36% of the world’s human rabies deaths transmitted by dogs.

India has created a ‘One Health’ network that will not only serve rabies but will also strengthen surveillance and health systems for multiple health risks at the human-animal-environment interface through better coordination and communication between the animal and human health and other relevant sectors.

Through the action plan, proposed under the National Rabies Control Programme, the government will conduct training of health care professionals on appropriate animal bite management and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. 

There will be advocacy for states to adopt and implement interdermal route of post-exposure prophylaxis for animal bite victims and pre-exposure prophylaxis for high-risk categories. 

The government also plans to strengthen human rabies surveillance system, regional laboratories under National Rabies Control Programme (NRCP) for rabies diagnosis and create awareness in the community through Advocacy & Communication and Social Mobilization.

“Zoonotic diseases like Rabies claims the lives of people in their prime denying the family of their earning member," said Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable, zoonotic, viral disease. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. Dogs are the source of the vast majority of rabies virus transmission, through bites or scratches, usually via saliva. Initial symptoms include a fever with pain and unusual or unexplained tingling, pricking, or burning sensation at the wound site. As the virus spreads to the central nervous system, progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord develops.

Rabies is classified as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) that predominantly affects poor and vulnerable populations who live in remote rural locations. Effective human vaccines and immunoglobulins exist for rabies. Immediate wound cleansing and immunization within a few hours after contact with a suspect rabid animal can prevent the onset of rabies and death. However, they are not readily available or accessible to those in need.

WHO has said that rabies elimination is feasible through vaccination of dogs, prevention of dog bites and ensuring universal access to post-exposure immunization. It said that this requires a whole-of-system approach with a multisectoral interventions and community engagement. The WHO closely collaborates and collaborates with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to support Member States in their efforts to eliminate rabies as a public health problem by 2030.

“As a country with rich research and clinical expertise, a lead producer of rabies biologicals, and a country which carries around one third of the global rabies burden, India can play a key role in reaching the global target," said Dr Roderico Ofrin, WHO’s representative in India. Ofrin said that investing in rabies elimination strengthens both human and veterinary health systems, improves equity and access to care, and contributes to sustainable development.

 

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