Emergency ABC programme in Mullumala tribal colony

Move after a 17-year-old girl died of rabies

The Piravanthur grama panchayat has taken steps to launch an emergency Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme in the local body after a 17-year-old girl from the Mullumala tribal colony died of rabies.

She had developed the symptoms and succumbed to the infection in September and the cause of death was revealed last Saturday after a pathological autopsy. Another suspected rabies death was also reported from the area. According to residents, both the victims were bitten by the same stray dog.

“The other victim was a senior citizen from the same colony. Though they developed the virus-induced complications only recently, both were bitten by a dog around eight months ago. Another girl from nearby Chembanaruvi was also attacked by the same stray, but she took the vaccine on time,” said R. Jayan, panchayat president on Tuesday.

According to Health and Panchayat officials, tribal colonies with a large number of stray dogs pose a major challenge in such situation. “Another issue is the lack of awareness and hesitancy to take the vaccine. A total of 27 persons, including all primary contacts of the victim, have been vaccinated, but it was a task convincing them.”

Though the residents claim the stray that bit the victims was not from the colony, all the dogs keep wandering outside the neighbourhood, coming into constant contact with other strays. “Each house in the colony has four to five dogs and we are planning to bring down the canine population by implementing the ABC programme. The programme will start soon and all the strays will be vaccinated,” he adds. While the programme will first cover Mullumala and nearby areas, it will be extended to the entire panchayat in coming days.

Meanwhile, officials from the Primary Health Centre said the first death was due to natural causes and not rabies. “Usually, victims develop symptoms in three to six weeks while a long incubation period up to one year is seen in very rare cases. In the case of the girl, the possibility of a recent history cannot be ruled out. There is also the chance of her contracting the virus through an open wound without getting bitten,” says an official.

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