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Rabies: Understanding the Dangers of Dog Bites and Prompt Treatment

Dog bites continue to be a problem in Pakistan, causing injuries to numerous people and leading to some fatalities.
by TNN Editor - 13 Jun, 2023 1580

Kaif Afridi

On March 23, 2023, which coincided with the 1st of Ramadan, 45-year-old Malakhel was at home when he received news from his children about his 10-year-old son, Hameed, being bitten by a dog in Bagh Bazar. Concerned for his son's well-being, Malakhel immediately rushed to the scene where he found Hameed crying in pain.

The dog had bitten him on the leg, but the injury appeared to be minor. They decided to treat him at home using home remedies. Initially, Hameed seemed to recover and the family thought everything was fine.

Days turned into weeks, and Hameed continued attending school as usual. He was a second-grade student at a government school, and even Eid had passed without any major concerns. Life seemed to be back to normal.

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However, approximately 70 days later, on a Friday, Hameed suddenly fell ill and began experiencing seizures. It was a bewildering turn of events for the family. They rushed him to a local doctor, who discovered that Hameed had not suffered from any diseases like asthma during his childhood.

This revelation prompted Malakhel to remember the incident with the dog bite. He immediately informed the doctor about it, mentioning that the wound had fully healed, and Hameed had shown no complaints since then.

The doctor, upon hearing the full account, administered a painkiller injection to Hameed and advised Malakhel to take him to a hospital in Peshawar for further treatment. The doctor suspected that Hameed might have contracted rabies, a serious viral infection commonly transmitted through the bite of infected animals.

Following the doctor's advice, Hameed was taken to a private hospital in Peshawar on the next day, Saturday. After conducting tests and examinations, the doctors delivered devastating news to the family. They informed them that the virus had spread throughout Hameed's body, leaving him with only a few breaths remaining.

Despite the doctors' efforts, Hameed's condition deteriorated rapidly, and he tragically passed away while being transported back home, following the doctors' instructions.

Medical experts explain that the rabies virus can spread in the body through the bite of any wild or domesticated animal, regardless of whether the animal exhibits signs of rabies. In the case of a bite, immediate consultation with a doctor is crucial.

Dog bites continue to be a problem in Pakistan, causing injuries to numerous people and leading to some fatalities. According to medical experts, timely administration of an anti-rabies vaccine after a bite can save lives. The rabies virus is commonly found in both wild and domestic animals, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical attention promptly in such situations.

Symptoms of a Rabid Dog's Bite

Dr. Akheer Jan, the rabies coordinator at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, sheds light on the symptoms of a rabid dog's bite. He explains that a rabid dog, in general, shows no fear toward anyone and can attack both humans and other animals. One distinguishing characteristic of a rabid dog is its continuous drooling and restless behavior. It keeps its head down and attempts to attack anyone who crosses its path.

Dr. Akheer Jan further elaborates that a rabid dog often targets the human head and quickly retreats after biting. It refrains from eating for a prolonged period. It completely loses its fear and becomes relentless in its pursuit of food, whether it be a human, a child, a young person, an elderly individual, or any other animal.

He emphasizes that a dog bite can result in a disease known as rabies. Initially, the affected person may experience a sense of sluggishness in their physical condition. Symptoms such as fever, headache, heightened sensitivity to stimuli, and hydrophobia (fear of water) may manifest. Additionally, organ-related issues and mental confusion can arise, leading to a loss of consciousness.

Can a Person Die from a Dog Bite?

Dr. Akheer Jan highlights the severity of dog bites, stating that a person can die from a dog bite, whether the dog is normal or rabid. He recalls an incident that occurred two years ago when a 45-year-old woman was brought to the hospital after being bitten by her pet dog.

Initially, she received home treatment, which provided temporary relief. However, as time passed, her condition deteriorated, and she had to be admitted to the hospital. Subsequent tests revealed signs of rabies, and treatment was initiated upon informing the patient's husband. Unfortunately, her condition worsened rapidly, and she had to be transferred to the cardiology ward, where she ultimately passed away.

Dr. Akheer Jan emphasizes that the rabies virus is transmitted through the bite, resin, or saliva of an infected animal. This virus is extremely dangerous and should not be taken lightly.

Furthermore, Dr. Akheer Jan advises immediate medical consultation if a person is bitten by a dog, regardless of whether it is a pet or not. Regarding home remedies, he suggests washing the affected area with soap and using iodine water to minimize the spread of the virus within the body. However, it is crucial to seek professional medical advice promptly. The injured area should be left uncovered, and stitches should not be applied.

According to Dr. Akheer Jan, every time an infected patient is admitted to the hospital, they undergo testing. The initial tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccination is administered, which is of utmost importance. The hospital provides vaccines free of cost, and the treatment regimen includes five initial vaccinations, followed by three more vaccinations within 28 days for the affected patient. Additionally, the affected area should be cleaned three times a day to facilitate the healing process.

It is worth noting that a recent incident occurred in the Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where a person was bitten by a dog. In response, the victim beat the dog to death with sticks and uploaded a video of the incident on social media.

After the video went viral, the victim was detained by the police following a complaint by an animal rights activist on Twitter. While the victim's intention was to prevent the dog from biting anyone else, the act was deemed undesirable and cruel by the activist.