Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Rising number of Rabies case


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: particulars of virus

Mains level: Human health


  • The death of a 12-year-old girl in Pathanamthitta has sharpened the focus on the rising number of rabies cases and the growing population of stray dogs in Kerala

What is rabies?

  • The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system of the host, and in humans, it can cause a range of debilitating symptoms including states of anxiety and confusion, partial paralysis, agitation, hallucinations, and, in its final phases, a symptom called “hydrophobia,” or a fear of water.

What are rabies caused by?

  • Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system of mammals, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

Can rabies person survive?

  • Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive. Less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented.

How long can a human live with rabies?

  • Death usually occurs 2 to 10 days after first symptoms. Survival is almost unknown once symptoms have presented, even with intensive care.

rabiesFacts on rabies

  • What animal has the most rabies?
  • Bats
  • Wild animals accounted for 92.7% of reported cases of rabies in 2018. Bats were the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (33% of all animal cases during 2018), followed by raccoons (30.3%), skunks (20.3%), and foxes (7.2%).

rabiesWhat is the issue?                                  

  • There is a blame game over the rising rabies cases: With the rabies deaths causing panic and reports of residents killing stray dogs through poisoning and strangulation, there is a blame game over the rising canine population and rabies cases. Some legal experts blame it on conflicts in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001; others point to the flawed implementation of birth control measures.
  • Legal battle over the issue in the Supreme Court: Canine culling campaigners and advocates of animal rights are also engaged in a protracted legal battle over the issue in the Supreme Court. V.K. Biju, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, who brought the issue of the “stray dog menace” before the apex court, contends that the root cause is the enactment of the Rules, which according to him, were passed in contravention of the parent Act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
  • Existence of stray dogs has adversely affected the fundamental rights of citizens: Biju says that while the Act stands for the “destruction” of stray dogs, the rules are against the “destruction” of stray dogs, including the rabies affected ones, besides providing specific protection of stray dogs. In his submission before the Supreme Court, he argues that the existence of stray dogs has adversely affected the fundamental rights of citizens, i.e. the right to life and free movement.
  • The quashing of the Rules to make India free of stray dogs: In his writ petition filed before the apex court, Biju has sought orders for the strict implementation of the Act and the quashing of the Rules to make India free of stray dogs.
  • Animal rights campaigners are apprehensive: In the light of this, animal rights campaigners are apprehensive over the campaign to cull dogs to check rabies.

rabiesHow can we prevent rabies in animals?

  1. First, visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
  2. Second, maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
  3. Third, spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  4. Finally, call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighbourhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.

How can we prevent rabies in humans?

  • Leave all wildlife alone.
  • Know the risk: contact with infected bats is the leading cause of rabies deaths in people followed by exposure to rabid dogs while traveling internationally.
  • Wash animal bites or scratches immediately with soap and water.
  • If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure, talk to a healthcare provider about whether you need postexposure prophylaxis. Rabies in people is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care.
  • Vaccinate your pets to protect them and your family.

Initiatives by Government to curb Neglected Tropical Diseases

National Rabies Control Programme: This programme is being restructured as Integrated National Rabies Control Programme under ‘One Health Approach’, with a aim to provide vaccination to stray dogs and free vaccines through Government hospitals.

Way forward

  • Think globally, act locally. Study and adopt global ‘best-practices’ after customising them to local needs.
  • Apply integrated approach. Follow a holistic strategy.
  • Ensure efficient and effective collaboration across various government departments.
  • Partner with Civil Society Organisations (especially with WASH – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – sector) for ground-level implementation and monitoring.

Mains question

Q. What is rabies? What ethical challenges are involved in culling of stray dogs? Explain the control measures for the same.


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