World Rabies Day: Can Ayurvedic medicines help? Debunking myths around the disease

World Rabies Day: Can Ayurvedic medicines help? Debunking myths around the disease

By: soham shah&
September 27 2023

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World Rabies Day: Can Ayurvedic medicines help? Debunking myths around the disease

While dog bites are one of the most common sources of rabies, all mammals can get the infection. (Source: Freepik)

Each year, rabies— a viral zoonotic disease— claims the lives of at least 55,000 people, mostly in Asia and Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While India accounts for nearly 36 percent of the world’s rabies deaths, the disease is “100% preventable.” However, once the clinical signs appear, rabies is considered to be almost always fatal.

A low level of awareness about seeking medical help is considered to be one of the reasons behind the large number of deaths. So, this World Rabies Day, we spoke to Dr. Anil Gupta, a member of the Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India (APCRI), and Dr. Maulik Patel, an internal medicine specialist at Divine Life Hospital, Gujarat, to debunk some myths related to rabies.

Myth 1: Only a dog bite can cause rabies

In India, the majority of rabies infections are caused by dog bites, but they are not the only possible source. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that rabies affects only mammals, and in the United States, raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes most commonly carry rabies. In fact, cats and livestock can also get rabies, which is transmitted through mucosal exposure to infected animals. 

Rabies can also infect humans when the saliva of an infected animal touches a scratch, abrasion, or an open wound. It could also be possibly transmitted through other bodily fluids, tears, and nervous tissues. 

Dr. Gupta told Logically Facts, “The most common infectors in India are dogs and cats, but even raw cow milk can spread rabies.” However, CDC stated that while transmission of rabies virus from consuming unpasteurized milk from an infected animal is theoretically possible, no such case has ever been reported. 

Myth 2: Rabies can’t be prevented 

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease. WHO lists three effective interventions to prevent it: 

Awareness: Creating awareness and empowering people to save themselves is crucial. This includes knowing how to prevent rabies, suspect a possible case, and seek care if bitten. 

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): In case of exposure, one must get vaccinated and, in certain cases, get rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) or monoclonal antibodies. Experts say appropriate and prompt medical care is almost 100 percent effective in preventing rabies.  

Mass dog vaccination: This is considered to be a way of stopping rabies at the source. The method is believed to be effective and cost-efficient. 

Myth 3: Rabies wound should be kept untouched

When bitten by an animal, the wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for a minimum of 15 minutes. This kills the virus present in the wound. After this, the patient should seek post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). 

Dr. Gupta says, “Washing the wound with soap and water for at least 10 minutes is very important. After that, the patient should go for vaccination. This simple procedure can save your life.” 

Dr. Patel concurred and said that any bleeding should be stopped by applying direct pressure to the wound, after which the wound should be cleaned with soap and water or any other antiseptic solution before proceeding with the vaccination.

Myth 4: Ayurvedic or traditional medicines can cure rabies

While there is no evidence to show that home remedies, ayurvedic, homeopathic, or traditional medicine can cure rabies, several people believe that these can be beneficial. Traditional practices like cauterizing the wound with ghee (clarified butter) have also been recorded. 

Rabies has a fatality rate of nearly 100 percent once the infection has set in, and the only way to prevent this is vaccination. Dr. Patel told Logically Facts, “Rabies vaccination and immunoglobulins are the mainstay of treatment. Rabies is a fatal disease, and traditional medicines have not shown to be effective.”

Dr. Gupta said he has commonly seen people apply turmeric or chili paste on an animal bite wound to cure rabies, but he warns against such practices. Other people, he said, falsely believe that consuming white-colored food like milk or paneer helps with rabies. “Some people also cauterize the wound with hot rods or put acid on it. This is also completely wrong and could be harmful,” he added. 


(Link for the Freepik image: <a href="">Freepik</a>)

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