Rabies continues to be a major public health burden in India, expert speakers said during a webinar hosted by the National Institute of Virology in Pune on Tuesday to mark the 15th World Rabies Day ( September 28).
The disease kills an estimated 60,000 people a year worldwide, with India accounting for 20,000 of these deaths. Although rabies is completely preventable with vaccination, general awareness of the disease remains quite low, leading to deaths.
A global call to action, called ‘Zero By 30’, has been launched by the WHO and other agencies to end human rabies deaths caused by dogs by 2030.
A rabies lab, housed at NIV, Pune, has been dedicated to the nation on occasion by Professor Dr Balram Bhargava, Secretary of the Department of Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
Several experts in the field of virology, including Dr Priya Abraham (director, NIV), Dr Nivedita Gupta (scientist and head of the virology unit of ICMR), Dr Pradip Awate (surveillance officer of the ‘State, IDSP, Maharashtra), Dr Reeta S Mani, (Additional Professor of Neurovirology, NIMHANS, Bengaluru), Dr Anita Mahadevan (Head, Department of Neuropathology, NIMHANS) and Dr Sudhir Patsute (Medical Superintendent, Dr Naidu Infectious Diseases Hospital, Pune) gave speeches on various aspects of rabies.
Several scientists, medical schools, researchers and students from all over India participated in the program. The new lab is expected to help improve rabies surveillance in the country and strengthen the battle to end human deaths from rabies, an official statement from ICMR-NIV said.