Education saves the day

Post by

Gowri Yale

October 19th 2016

October has been busy with mass dog vaccinations, rabies awareness programmes in schools, our grandiose opening ceremony graced by the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Goa who spoke highly of us which was very encouraging, WVS; our sister charity sterilizing at least 50 dogs a day, mass vaccinated 5800 dogs already, MR Truck creating a sensation in Aldona and our rabies hotline number ringing constantly due to the popularity it gained from all the action happening in Goa.

We have conducted 10 necropsies (on rabies suspected dogs) already this October and 8 were positive by the lateral flow test we use for immediate tentative diagnosis. I am taking this space to narrate a small story that completes the circle of Mission Rabies team work.

Two weeks ago a white dog with a red collar wandered into a locality in Parra and started attacking 3 dogs inside someone's garden for no reason at all. The white dog looked well, his skin and fur were nice and clean, he wasn't too skinny; he looked like he had a home.

The incessant attacking could only be stopped by some beatings from the people in the house who desperately wanted to save their dogs from being hurt.  The commotion that late evening attracted quite a crowd around the house from neighbours and friends alike. The dog has received a knock on his legs and couldn't move now.

As soon as the dog was immobile the discussion among the crowd shifted to 'what to do with it', while some contemplated calling a local vet, some calling the nearest animal welfare group others beating the dog to death. While the adults made their own plans, a small boy listened and observed the situation from a distance (like always children are sent away to safer grounds from any situation that could cause emotional or physical harm).

This small boy remembered Dr. Murugan and his education team who had visited his school a few days back. He remembered the play where the team wore dog face masks and white coats demonstrating a similar situation he was witnessing. He went running back to his house and pulled out a yellow business card from his school bag and a pamphlet that spoke about RABIES - prevention and precautions.

As soon as this small hero gave these to the adults, things got clear, giving them a direction to work towards solving this problem. Dr. Nawaz (hotline responsibility for this term) received a call at 8pm describing the issue. He and his team drove down to the house and picked up the dog at around 9:30 in the night. The dog was dropped off at Hicks ITC where it was quarantined in our rabies isolation area.

Next morning the vets at Hicks ITC observed the dog's clinical signs and euthanised it relieving it from various suffering; neurological and physical. We conducted the necropsy later that day and the lateral flow test read POSITIVE.

The family who called us were informed about the results we got and were advised to take post exposure prophylaxis as a precautionary measure. Their dogs were to be isolated and observed for 45 days. We went back and mass vaccinated all the dogs in the area and gave out more educational material to people.

I am thinking of looking for the young boy who remembered us at the right time and commend his actions and his presence of mind. We as adults often underestimate the capacity of children and never give them an opportunity to express. More often than we know they can see logic through the surrounding commotion.

Dr. Murugan, our educational director has visited more than 1200 schools over the past 3 years bringing awareness of rabies in young children. Children are a large proportion of victims of dog bites and rabies because of their small size, running and playing on streets, rough and unsafe handling of dogs and puppies and fear of reporting to adults about the bite.

So this awareness in a young boy helped us remove a rabid dog from a residential locality preventing any further exposures, helped us get data for our surveillance work, helped us to target mass vaccination in the area thereby preventing spread of the disease, helped the dog with a smooth passing, helped us educate more adults, helped us advice anti rabies vaccination to people at risk, helped us discard the carcass in a safe manner; helped us save lives from Rabies. Education did save the day!