canine attack
© Angela Antunes / CC by 2.0
Two years ago, a Rajya Sabha committee went to the extent of putting out newspaper advertisements, inviting suggestions from various stake holders to deal with the dog menace in MPs' areas in Delhi.

It is not known whether the move eased the situation or not for the MPs' there. But in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 31 members to the Upper House of Parliament, dog bites continue to be a big public health problem, affecting more than 27 lakh people every year, according to health department sources.

While the killing of more than a dozen children by feral dogs in Sitapur in back-to-back incidents has only brought the problem to the fore in its worst form, on an average, not less than 100 people are bitten by dogs in each district every day, as per a rough estimate.

The state's health department does not compile any data on statewide cases of dog bites, according to director, medical and health, Padamakar Singh.

However, enquiries to individual districts reveal dog bite cases vary from district to district. Some districts, including Lucknow, are high on such incidents.

Estimate:  Not less than 100 people are bitten by canines in each district every day.
© Hindustan Times
Estimate:  Not less than 100 people are bitten by canines in each district every day.
Chief medical officer, Lucknow, Narendra Agrawal says 30,000 people were given anti-rabies vaccines after dog bites at the government community health centres (CHCs) and primary health centres (PHCs) in the district during 2017-18, which means there are 82 patients every day.

If the dog bite cases received at three government hospitals in Lucknow are taken into account, the number becomes substantial. For example, the Balrampur and the Civil hospitals receive around 150-200 and 100 dog bite cases every day, respectively, according to their medical superintendents. The Lohiya Hospital is also said to treat around 100 dog bite cases daily.

Sitapur, which is in the news for violent attacks by feral dogs these days, is high on dog bites otherwise also. According to the additional CMO, around 300-400 people are administered ARVs in the district every day, more than 95% for dog bites.

In Varanasi, 100 dog bite cases come to government hospitals in rural areas alone every day. "Total dog bite cases reported in the whole district must not be less than 400 a day," says district ARV incharge, Anil Rai.

Chief medical officer, Aligarh, ML Agrawal puts the dog bite cases in the district at more than 500 per day while in Agra the figure was quoted to be around 100 cases a day minus the divisional and district hospitals.

In Lakhimpur, 11,750 ARVs were used at governments CHCs and PHCs during 2017-18. "Given the fact that one ARV vial is used for four patients, the number of patients given ARVs during 2017-18 comes to more than 128 cases every day, excluding the cases received at the district hospital," additional CMO BC Pant said.

"Even if it is presumed that every district in UP, consisting of 75 districts, receives 100 dog bites cases every day, then the number comes to a staggering 7,500 every day and more than 27 lakh a year," said health department official on condition of anonymity. He said dog bite cases account around 95% of the total cases treated for rabies, other being cases of monkey bite, mongoose bite etc.

RABIES DEATHS RARE NOW

Despite a large number of dog bite cases reported in the state every year, the rabies deaths are now rare, if government statistics are to be believed. As per the Central government's reply to a starred question on state-wise deaths due to rabies in Lok Sabha on March 4, 2016, UP reported no rabies death in 2013, reported one death in 2014 and again reported no death in 2015. The country as a whole reported 132, 104 and 80 deaths due to rabies during the same years, respectively.

"Rabies deaths are now rare because of increasing awareness among the people who take no chance with regard to treatment after being bitten by a dog," director, medical and health, Padmakar Singh said, adding, "But only those cases in which a post-mortem is performed are documented."

PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF DOG BITES

Dog bite may leave a permanent scar on the mind of one attacked or bitten.

"Anyone who is attacked or bitten by a dog may have to live with the fear of dogs throughout his life, more so if the incident occurs during childhood," said Rajesh Pandey, a psychologist who runs a counseling centre in Aliganj, Lucknow.

He said a person bitten by a dog, or any animal for that matter, might even develop personality and behavioural changes.

CANINE POPULATION

The 19th livestock census conducted in 2012 had put the total number of dogs in the state at 7,66,728. Of them 5,31,586 were found male and 2,35,142 female.

"Stray dogs are not only a danger to the human safety but also pose a serious threat to wildlife since they attack, hunt and chase away wildlife and livestock," said an animal husbandry department official.