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Kerala to examine rabies virus’ mutation as one more succumb to rabies

- September 5, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, September 5 (BPNS)

Following one more death among those who completed their vaccine schedule against rabies, the Kerala government has decided to examine whether rabies virus had undergone mutation. According to health minister Veena George, for the same, samples will be sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune for whole-genome sequencing. The state on Monday had reported its 21st rabies death in this year itself. The deceased is 12-year-old Abhirami of Ranni, Perunadu, Pathanamthitta.

“Mutation to rabies virus is not likely possible. But it will be examined whether that happened in the state. Because of the rabies deaths reported in the state there are many who completed their vaccine schedule (three shots of anti-rabies virus along with rabies immune globulin,” said Veena.

The state government had earlier announced two inquiries into the efficacy of anti-rabies vaccine being administered in the state and reasons behind the rabies deaths.

While questions like the efficacy of the vaccine, its storage, and the way it is administered are being raised, some also doubt whether the rabies virus had undergone mutation.

In 2021, two Italian doctors had come out with a research paper that warns of the possibility of rabies lyssavirus (that causes rabies) getting mutation.

According to the study, mutated rabies virus may be seen as an imaginable menace for mankind and this would be theoretically possible by either natural or artificial virus engineering, producing viral strains characterized by facilitated human-to-human transmission, faster incubation, enhanced neurotoxicity, and predisposition towards developing highly aggressive behaviors.

At the same time, the parents of Abhirami alleged that their daughter didn’t receive timely medical attention from the concerned. According to them, following the dog bite she was first rushed to Perunadu Primary Health Center and then to the Pathanamthitta General Hospital. Both hospitals allegedly didn’t provide timely medical attention. According to Government Medical College, Kottayam’s Institute of Child Health superintendent Dr KP Jayaprakash, the child suffered bite injuries to her face and neck and this might have proved fatal as injuries to the central nervous system will help the virus to spread rapidly.

The other day, in the wake of a steep increase in dog and cat bite cases in the state, the Health, Local Self Government, and Animal Husbandry Departments decided to come out with a joint action plan to decrease the bite cases and prevent subsequent rabies deaths.

A decision was also taken to ramp up the animal birth control (ABC) programme and anti-rabies vaccination programme for stray dogs and domesticated dogs. Along with that, departments have decided to make license and vaccine certificates mandatory for domesticated dogs. Also, an awareness campaign among people regarding rabies and the need to take vaccination will be highlighted.

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite.

Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease nearly always causes death. For this reason, anyone who may have a risk of contracting rabies should receive rabies vaccinations for protection.