Over 190,000 dog bites and 70 deaths from rabies
- Myanmar is among a number of countries that has a high risk of rabies with over 190,000 people bitten by dogs last year and 70 dying from the viral disease.
Being a commercial hub, Yangon Region has a dense population and a plethora of urban issues including an estimated 200,000 stray dogs roaming its streets that raises the region into the unenviable position of having the highest number of dog bites and deaths from rabies among the entire nation.
Rabies is caused by the Lyssavirus; a genus of the Rhabdoviridae family of viruses that have bullet shaped geometries and are often carried by mammals. Once symptoms appear, the result is nearly always death but timely vaccination guarantees a hundred per cent chance of survival.
The virus spreads when an infected animal, such as a cat, dog or bat, scratches or bites another animal or human and penetrates the skin. The virus enters the peripheral nervous system and travels along up the central nervous system, where it rapidly causes encephalitis once it reaches the brain. At this point, treatment is almost never effective and mortality is over 99 per cent.
The incubation period of the virus is slow, taking anywhere from a few months to years for symptoms to develop. Symptoms include pain from the infected wound, skin irritation, fear of water and drafts, difficulty in drinking and eating, salivating, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, and eventually death.
Cats and dogs are common pets that share close quarters with their human companions. Contact with their saliva or a scratch or bite from them on an existing wound can also transmit the rabies virus. With this in mind, we need to diligently vaccinate our pets and ourselves and make sure they do not come in contact with other stray animals.
If we ever find ourselves on the receiving end of a dog bite, we need to first wash the wounds thoroughly with soap and water for at least fifteen minutes and then apply rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic like Betadine. Next, seek vaccination from the nearest medical facility within 24 hours. Take extra caution if you get bitten anywhere on or near the head, neck and throat and seek immediate medical attention and full vaccination.
To reduce the number of rabies-related deaths, we need to reduce the instances of dog bites. And since the majority of dogs biting people are strays, proper administration of their populations is essential to prevent figures from rising uncontrollably. We urge the public to cooperate with efforts to spaying and neutering stray dogs or relocating them far away from urban areas. While almost everyone loves dogs, no one likes getting bitten and risking a rabies infection.