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‘Recycle waste, manage garbage to control street dog numbers’


Kolkata: What has the Swachh Bharat campaign got to do with dogs? Well, Indian experts have found that managing how garbage is dumped and handled can help in controlling the population of strays in urban areas.

While dog lovers have a way with free-ranging dogs or strays, for the municipal authorities and health management officials, it’s a problem of plenty: more dogs mean more littering and the risk of rabies spreading.

Behavioural biologist Anindita Bhadra, who works on the behaviour and ecology of stray dogs, says her research has shown street dogs are essentially scavengers and extremely capable of selectively sniffing out meat protein in garbage bins.

“Hence, in order to manage dog populations on streets, it is essential to manage garbage, and ensure that there are no open bins and garbage dumps within city limits,” Bhadra, founding chairperson of the Indian National Young Academy of Science (INYAS), told IANS over the phone from Mohanpur in West Bengal.

Bhadra and her team of student researchers showed through innovative methods like the “chicken smell” experiment that strays will virtually go for anything that smells meaty, irrespective of the nutrient content.

“While the food provided by humans is dominated by carbohydrates, food obtained through foraging attempts is rich in animal proteins.

“So, the dogs display a tendency to selectively feed on protein-rich sources of food through scavenging, compensating for the lack of hunting for meat,” she explained.

Thus, they will rummage through whatever they find on streets.

Now, factor in the threat of rabies.

India accounts for 20,000 of the 45,000 deaths in the world due to rabies every year but taking dogs off the streets is not a solution, felt Bhadra, who has been spearheading studies on the relationship between dogs and humans.

“The way we do population control in India in pockets doesn’t help because they migrate a lot. The best way would be to go for the comprehensive long-term animal birth control procedure. But in India we don’t follow that as it’s time consuming and expensive,” she said.

Moreover, in the ongoing breeding season, the streets have literally gone to the dogs, what with strays actively engaging in mating rituals, protecting pups and defending territories – and in the process, leaving scraps of litter on streets.

“There is a lot of activity and interactions among them during the breeding season compared to the non-breeding period; so you tend to see more littering,” the researcher said.

But the meat of the matter is, stressed Bhadra, that if you want clean roads, you’d better manage and recycle your own waste.

“Make sure the waste is inaccessible to dogs. Protocols could be drawn up to ensure garbage is dumped at specific locations,” she added.

The study was published online in the Ethology, Ecology and Evolution journal. The other contributors to the study are from the Thiruvananthapuram and Bhopal branches of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and the Asian University for Women, Chittagong.

(Sahana Ghosh, IANS)


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Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

Also Read: With Medicine Running Out, Venezuelans With Transplant Live in Fear

According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS