A report by a panel of the Delhi Legislative Assembly has urged that rabies be deemed a notifiable disease and that steps be taken to record a census of stray dogs and monkeys in the national capital.
“The committee is of the firm belief that rabies should be declared as a notifiable disease in the human sector also as has already been declared in the animal sector, with immediate effect,” said the report of the committee chaired by Malviya Nagar Legislative Assembly Member (MLA) Somnath Bharti of the Aam Aadmi Party. As such, “it would become mandatory by law to report any and every case to the government authorities making the monitoring of the disease and ensuring its mitigation a lot easier.” In addition, steps must be taken to ensure that there is sufficient stock of the anti-rabies vaccine in the national capital, with numerous instances of shortages of the rabies vaccine being reported in the country this year.
Other steps the committee recommended included a “comprehensive survey of the dog and monkey population” of the national capital and “[moving] out stray dogs and monkeys, which endanger human lives, immediately to forested areas.” These “parks must be gated and boundary walled so that strays don’t enter them,” the MLAs added.
“The committee recommends that a pilot project be initiated by the three corporations, [the] DCB [Delhi Cantonment Board] and the New Delhi Municipal Council to make arrangements for dog shelters where captured stray dogs are kept and treated until completely fit,” came a further recommendation. At such facilities, dogs would undergo biometric scans of the iris to register them, thereby recording their vaccination and medical histories and making it easier to access. Such an approach would be “cost-effective and better than previous painful and invasive methods of branding the animal and marking or piercing them to recognise.”
Rabies is a deadly disease, with no person surviving an infection with it in 2017 – a mortality rate of 100 percent. Animal bites are a significant vector of the disease. In Delhi alone, between 2016 and 2018, nineteen people died due to dog and monkey bites.
Action of the kind taken by the MLAs is vital in controlling the spread of rabies in the national capital. Making rabies a notifiable disease, in addition, will permit a greater insight into the transmission of rabies in India and enable authorities to formulate an approach to controlling the disease’s spread.