The Health Ministry spends Rs.500 on post exposure treatment of rabies and an additional Rs.100 million per year on mass vaccinations and sterilizing programs (surgical and chemical) to control the dog population. It resulted in a drop in the dog population by over 50 percent.
“However, all these funds will waste unless the public works with us to eliminate rabies,” the speakers at a rabies prevention briefing to mark World Rabies Day held on September 21, informed.
Dogs are the main carriers of rabies in Sri Lanka. Data from the Public Veterinary Services had revealed that 28 deaths occurred due to rabies this year. The highest number of cases was reported from Jaffna, Kegalle, Hambantota and Matara.
Director, Rabies Control Unit Dr. P.A.L Harischandra said stray dogs and pet dogs bite over 2,000 people each year. Medical Officer at the Rabies Treatment Center at the National Hospital, Dr Amila said an average of 50 to 60 patients bitten by animals was brought daily for treatment. In the past eight months, over 500,000 dogs were given rabies injections and 125,000 patients with dog bites were treated – most were children below 15 years.
MRI Head of the Rabies Department, Dr Omantha Wimalaratne, said that the MRI was the national reference lab for rabies, which carries out routine screening and antibody (confirmatory) tests. “Our goal is to eliminate rabies by 2016. But the public must co-operate with us to achieve it,” she emphasized.
To achieve this goal, the Health Ministry recently introduced several new regulations: It is now compulsory that MOHs in all government hospitals send the relevant dog’s brain for testing and verification due to unreported cases of rabies. It is also compulsory for dog owners to register and vaccinate their pets. “Vaccinating dogs against rabies at 6 weeks, 6 months and thereafter once in every 1-2 years, and responsible ownership are the most powerful tools against the deadly disease,” the speakers stressed.