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Rabies Disease

Rabies - Ekam IAS
UPSC Current Affairs

Rabies Disease

  • Rabies is a disease that is caused by a family of viruses called the lyssaviruses and found in a range of mammals.
  • The death of a 12-year-old girl in Kerala from rabies, despite having multiple inoculations of the vaccine, has raised questions on the efficacy of rabies vaccines in India and their availability.
  • The virus targets the central nervous system and is nearly 100% fatal to the host animal if it succeeds in infecting it.
  • Though many animals from cats to crocodiles can be transmitters of the virus, it is most likely to spread to people from the bite of an infected dog or a cat as they are the most common pets.
How does a rabies vaccine work?
  • Despite being potentially lethal(deadly), the virus is slow-moving and it can be several weeks before the disease manifests into a fatal encephalitis which is why administering a vaccine, even after being bitten by a rabid animal, is effective.
  • A shot of rabies immunoglobulin (rabies-antibodies against the virus derived either from people or horses) followed by a four-week course of anti-rabies vaccine, is nearly guaranteed to prevent rabies.
How is the vaccine made?
  • The vaccine is made up of an inactivated virus that is expected to induce the body into producing antibodies that can neutralise the live virus in case of infection.
  • There are also test vaccines that involve genetically modified viruses.
  • There is no single-shot rabies vaccine or one that offers permanent immunity.
  • There are mainly two ways of administering the rabies vaccine.
  • One, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), is given to persons who have been exposed via a bite to an animal suspected to be infected.
  • The other one is called Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). The advantage of a PrEP is that if bitten, one doesn’t need a immunoglobulin injection.
Availability of Rabies vaccines in India:
  • According to the Health Ministry, there are at least six rabies vaccines approved for India.
  • They all contain inactivated virus made of duck, chicken or human cell cultures and are marked as safe, efficacious and with long immunity.
  • Rabies vaccines are available for free in government dispensaries though vaccines administered in a private clinic can cost up to ₹500 per dose.
  • The WHO says India is endemic for rabies and accounts for 36% of the world’s deaths.
  • As per available information, rabies causes 18,000-20,000 deaths every year.
  • About 30-60% of reported rabies cases and deaths in India occur in children under the age of 15 years, as bites that occur in children often go unrecognised and unreported.
UPSC Prelims Model Question

Q. Consider the following statements :

  1. Rabies is a disease that is caused by a family of viruses called the lyssaviruses.
  2. Once the pathogen enters the body, it moves faster and affects the entire body.

Which of the statements given above is /are correct?

a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

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