Mumbai: It is a hard fact that thousands of people get bitten by dogs in Mumbai throughout the year. Awareness campaigns have helped reduce deaths drastically here but across the country 20,000 out of 55,000 people worldwide die of rabies each year.
Lack of awareness is a key factor for the large number of deaths. On the occasion of World Rabies Day yesterday, Ranjit Shahani, vice-chairman and managing director, Novartis India, said, "Education and spreading awareness of rabies is important as lack of awareness causes unnecessary deaths.
"We need to recognise that in case of possible exposure, the risk is very high and timely post-exposure vaccination is important to save lives."
In Mumbai and its adjoining suburbs and townships, six people died in 2010 and dog bites numbered over 70,000.
"This year, dog bites have increased slightly," said A. Bandiwadekar, executive health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Whilst the Bombay High Court has banned the BMC from killing stray dogs, "we have nine NGOs working for sterilisation of stray dogs," he said.
"We propose to do a census of sterilised and unsterilised dogs soon."
According to Abodh Araz of Welfare of Stray Dogs, "Our organisation has been raising awareness about rabies and dog bite prevention over the years in schools, colleges and public places.
"This year, we have focused on municipal schools and sensitised thousands of children on how to prevent dog bites." According to him, deaths due to rabies went down in 2010 by more than 70 per cent since 1994.