Nima Wangdi

Rabies is 100 percent preventable if the person takes vaccine on time and is equally fatal if delayed, according to livestock officials.

They also claimed a person will not live more than 10 days if they show symptoms.

The veterinary superintendent of the National Livestock Hospital in Thimphu, Dr Kinley Dorji, said people, especially in the southern parts of the country, should get vaccinated after dog bites.

He said the virus travels to the brain through nerves and it should be killed with vaccine before it reaches the brain. “The virus will attack the brain and all the soft muscles in the body will be destroyed.”

According to him, anyone suffering from rabies would die of respiratory failure. “Rabies infected people or animals will become hydro-phobic and go wild as their brains won’t function.”

He said that unlike animals, people bitten by the rabid animals can be saved if they go to the hospital and get vaccinated against rabies immediately.

Veterinary officials claimed rabies is 100 percent dog mediated in Bhutan whereas vampire bats and other animals cause it in other countries.

They said touching the rabid dog will not contract the virus but it does when the dog’s saliva containing the virus gets into our body through bites.

Dr Kinley Dorji said that there are two forms of rabies known as dumb form and furious form. “Dumb form is when the infected dog remains quiet and bites only when things get closer to it. The dog will become aggressive, mad and run around biting everything that comes on its way when it is a furious form.”

He said rabies should be prevented through herd immunity. “Pet dogs should be vaccinated 100 percent and the stray dogs’ vaccination should cover 70 percent in the country.”

According to veterinary officials, the country reports rabies outbreaks every year in the southern dzongkhags of Samtse, lower Chukha, Dagana, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashigang and Trashiyangtse as dogs travel freely across the border.

They claimed they conduct mass dog vaccination in pursuit of the World Health Organisations’ goal to eradicate rabies in all the member countries by 2030.

Officials from Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital said that the hospital has not seen any death from rabies in recent times.

Health Bulletin of Bhutan 2021 shows that there were 6,430 dog bite cases in 2020-2021 and most of them were among children.

World Health Organisation record shows that the infection causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, mainly in Asia and Africa.

It also stated rabies causes an estimated cost of USD 8.6 billion every year. “About 40 percent of people bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15.”