Published Date: 2011-04-21 17:30:47
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Rabies - India (03): (TN), dog control, human
Archive Number: 20110421.1249
RABIES - INDIA (03): (TAMIL NADU), DOG CONTROL, HUMAN
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Thu 21 Apr 2011
Source: The Times of India [edited]
Rabies kills 15 in Chennai, corporation in denial
The Chennai Corporation has hidden information on a serial killer.
Rabies, which has no effective treatment, has killed 15 people in the
city in the last 4 months.
The corporation has contributed to the problem by withholding
information about rabies deaths to agencies involved in fighting the
disease. The civic body has also not reported the 12 deaths in 2010
and 13 deaths in 2009.
Experts say that if the corporation had reported the deaths, animal
birth control and vaccination programmes could have been strengthened
for stray dogs in the suburbs. "We would have strengthened awareness
campaigns that would encourage people to take the vaccines after they
are bitten by an animal. These vaccines are available free at all
government and corporation hospitals," said the director of public
health Dr RT Porkai Pandian.
The rabies deaths occurred in the government hospitals in the city
and the death certificates were issued by the corporation. But the
civic body did not report the deaths to the state health department.
As a result, Chennai city's data on rabies death showed zero for the
last few years at the national level. In 2009, Tamil Nadu recorded 3
deaths against 263 across the country and in 2010 they recorded 2
deaths against 162 nationally (source: National Health Profile 2010).
The 25 rabies deaths in the city in the last 2 years went unreported.
Chennai Corporation says that they did not inform the state health
department as the victims weren't residents of Chennai. "People who
died in 2009 and 2010 lived in the suburban areas, where there is no
good vaccination programme for stray dogs. In effect, we have had only
2 cases this year," said Deputy commissioner of health Ashish Kumar.
But health care professionals find the corporation's defense "lame
and irresponsible." They say that the corporation's action is wrong in
terms of procedure and medical practice.
"It's alarming that Chennai has so many cases," said Porkai Pandian.
"If they register a rabies death in the city, no matter where the
victim belongs to, it's a death the civic body should own up," he
said. Rabies, a viral disease that is transmitted to humans from
animals, leads to death in all cases. It spreads when the infected
saliva enters the body through a bite.
Stray dogs affected with rabies in one area can quickly spread the
virus to other animals, experts say. "The virus has no borders," they
say, and add that a dog with rabies in Alandur can spread the
infection to those in neighbouring Guindy.
Non-governmental agencies (NGOs) involved in the animal birth control
programme say that though Chennai started its rabies prevention
programme much ahead of many other cities, it has a long way to go.
The city has outsourced the stray dog animal birth control and
vaccination programme to 3 NGOs. The dogs are sterilised and the
anti-rabies injection is given. But this vaccine is valid only for a
year and there is no guarantee of follow-up vaccinations. The last
stray dog census was done in 2003.
"In almost every city, there is a participatory approach to animal
birth control. Every local body outside Tamil Nadu funds 50 per cent
of the cost but that does not happen in Chennai," said Chinny Krishna,
vice-president of the Animal Welfare Board.
[byline: Pushpa Narayan]
Editor, Animal People
PO Box 960, Clinton, WA 98236
[The following are extracts from a commentary forwarded by Merritt
In the report in the Times of India on 10 Jun 2009, referred to
above, the Chennai Corporation stated that Chennai was rabies-free. In
that article, Dr B Kuganatham, health officer, Chennai Corporation was
quoted as saying: "There has been no rabies cases in the last one
year," whereas the above report quotes the corporation deputy
commissioner (health) as saying: "People who died in 2009 and 2010
lived in the suburban areas, where there is no good vaccination
programme for stray dogs. In effect, we have had only 2 cases this
According to this article: "In 2009, Tamil Nadu recorded 3 deaths
against 263 across the country and in 2010, the State recorded 2
deaths as against 162 nationally" quoting from the National Health
Dr S Chinny Krishna, of the Animal Welfare Board of India (Government
of India) has written that: "Rabies is almost totally preventable by
the most cost effective method of vaccination of the dog. The majority
of human rabies cases are from owned animals. The Government of India
must make rabies a notifiable disease. Stating that rabies deaths per
year are so much less than those from malaria, TB and AIDS is no
answer. The Deccan Chronicle today also carried a remark by the Union
Home Secretary, Mr G K Pillay, that "over 100 000 people die from road
accidents per year; 20 times as many as deaths from terrorist attacks,
left wing extremism and insurgencies put together." While we have to
prioritise our expenditure based on deaths, declaring rabies as a
notifiable disease would involve no major expense and the Government
must do so without any further delay."
Both Chinny Krishna and Major General (retired) Rammehar Kharb
(current chairman of the AWBI) have been pushing for years for rabies
to be made a notifiable disease in India, so that accurate data can be
collected about where it exists, enabling the AWBI, the Blue Cross,
and other animal welfare organizations to target and eradicate the
reservoirs for the disease.
Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital city of the Indian
state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of
Bengal. Chennai being the 4th most populous metropolitan area and the
5th most populous city in India, is also the world's 36th largest
metropolitan area. A map of Tamil Nadu, showing the location of Chenai
can be accessed at