Known ra­bies cases ‘tip of the iceberg’

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

Med­i­cal ex­perts have warned that lack of knowl­edge about ra­bies has re­sulted in many cases of the deadly dis­ease go­ing un­re­ported.

THE dart hits a flee­ing street dog in the thigh, the bright or­ange tip sag­ging against his brown and white fur as he slows to a halt, his limbs suc­cumb­ing to the seda­tives.

The mutt is one of more than 100,000 strays that roam the streets of Yan­gon, sleep­ing in door­ways, nos­ing through rub­bish and bark­ing their chal­lenges to each other late into the night.

He is ac­tu­ally one of the lucky ones – the se­dated an­i­mal is among sev­eral hun­dred that will be vac­ci­nated and neutered dur­ing a three­month city cam­paign in Lan­madaw township.

Loved by some and loathed by oth­ers, lo­cal authorities have for years tried to con­tain the swelling packs of dogs by feed­ing them poi­soned meat.

But an­i­mal rights ac­tivists have lob­bied the gov­ern­ment to change tack, ar­gu­ing that the killings do lit­tle to con­tain the pop­u­la­tion or stop the spread of ra­bies.

As the drugs kick in, a worker muz­zles the limp dog and ties his paws to­gether with twine.

He is car­ried to a makeshift op­er­at­ing ta­ble out­side, where he is swiftly dealt with by a vet and placed next to sev­eral other sleep­ing dogs.

Later, the an­i­mals will be re­leased back onto the streets with red col­lars.

“I love the dogs,” said lo­cal res­i­dent Daw Moe Lwe Lwe, who has been feed­ing them rice and curry for 18 years and helps with the ster­il­i­sa­tion pro­gram.

“They are very cud­dly. I am nuts for them.”

Myan­mar has the sec­ond-high­est rate of ra­bies in all of South­east Asia, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, although vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams have helped stem the num­ber of cases.

Some say authorities dis­like neu­ter­ing be­cause of the be­lief held by Bud­dhists, the re­li­gious ma­jor­ity in Myan­mar, that karmic ret­ri­bu­tion will leave you in­fer­tile in your next life.

Leav­ing poi­soned meat, on the other hand, is seen as free of spir­i­tual con­se­quences be­cause the dogs opt to eat the food on their own.

Oth­ers say ster­il­i­sa­tion is an ex­pen­sive op­tion for a coun­try where one in four lives be­low the poverty line.

But im­ages of dog corpses strewn across the city’s pave­ments spread on so­cial media have shocked the pub­lic.

In re­sponse, Yan­gon of­fi­cials signed an agree­ment with US an­i­mal NGO Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional in March to be­gin a city-wide vac­ci­na­tion and ster­il­i­sa­tion scheme.

The joint pro­gram has yet to get started, but the char­ity said it hopes to em­u­late the suc­cess of sim­i­lar cam­paigns in coun­tries like Nepal, In­dia and Bangladesh.

Other an­i­mal lovers like Ter­ryl Just, an Amer­i­can who founded the Yan­gon An­i­mal Shel­ter which cares for some 500 res­cued dogs, ar­gue the an­i­mals could be­come a tourist draw for the city.

“We’ve adopted some out to the States – LA, Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, Cal­i­for­nia – to peo­ple who have vis­ited Yan­gon,” she said. “Tourism is huge and boom­ing and I think in­ter­est in the dogs is grow­ing as you have more ex­pats com­ing in, and more aware­ness.” –

Photo: AFP

City ve­teri­nar­i­ans vac­ci­nate and neuter a stray dog in Yan­gon on Oc­to­ber 6.

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