SRINAGAR: With an average of 5000 dog bites a year, the stray canines are not only terrorising the valley residents but also exacting an economic cost from them, as well as from the state.
At Anti Rabies Centre (ARC) at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, a middle-aged woman walks in complaining of severe pain in her right thigh.
Saleema Bano, 55, of Pathar Masjid, Srinagar had gone to buy vegetables but was bitten by a dog on her way to Bohri Kadal. Doctors and paramedics console her and advise her to stay calm and sit in a chair. After inspecting her injury, doctor referred her case as ‘Class III’ (a patient with single or multiple transdermal bites or scratches). She will be given Immunoglobulin as per the body weight.
“There’s no need to . You’re fine,” said a doctor. Doctors at ARC said that they provide free medicine to dog bite patients, except immunoglobulin and ‘insulin syringes’ which patients have to buy from the market.
“Majority of the patients with dog bite cases are poor and can’t afford immunoglobulin,” they said.
With tears in her eyes, Saleema says she can’t afford the cost of Immunoglobulin (more than Rs 1000).
“We don’t have anybody except Allah,” she says amid sobs.
Her husband, who worked as a carpenter had lost his eyesight two years ago after being operated by doctors at Rainawari hospital. Her only son a Commerce graduate with an additional ITI diploma in automobile engineering, is working as salesman at a medical store earning a meager Rs 4000 per month.
Doctors say that she is not the only ‘Case III’ patient here who can’t afford to buy immunoglobulin and other medicines. There are thousands of such cases mostly labourers even have to skip their work for treatment but can’t afford it and suffer.
“Immunoglobulin is given to patients as per their body weight. After giving the required quantity, rest of it is preserved and given accordingly to patients who can’t afford to buy it,” they said.
“Sometimes we feel helpless and contribute to buy immunoglobulin injections for poor patients,” the doctors said.
They added that they have also appealed “higher authorities multiple times, but nobody is listening to us”.
Last year in October, after a PIL was filed on dog menace, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had directed the J&K government to ensure proper supply of anti rabies medicines and other injections in all districts of the state to cure dog bite cases. But patients decrying unavailability of immunoglobulin tell a different story. In Saleema’s case, doctors gave her ‘preserved’ immunoglobulin and other medicines and told her to visit on the referred dates. The government also has to spend a substantial amount on the anti- rabies treatment.
A single dose of ARV provided free at the clinic costs around 350 rupees and a patient requires minimum of 4 doses which cost Rs 1400. According to the data disclosed by ARC, nearly 5,000 cases of dog bites have been reported between April and December 2017. Given the number of cases reported, it has incurred government a cost of around Rs 70 lakh.
For the poor working class, the bigger economic toll comes in the form of man days lost.