Since prehistoric times man has lived with the dog in an easy-going, friendly relationship. But?
Since prehistoric times man has lived with the dog in an easy-going, friendly relationship. But the dog is also a principal carrier of one of the horrific diseases on earth -- rabies.
SYNOPSIS: According to a recent enquiry, Argentina is second on the list of countries in the Americas for cases of animal rabies. In Buenos Aires province alone, this year there have been 1,800 reports of animal rabies and 20 cases among human beings. However, in Buenos Aires city there have been no cases of rabies in human beings since 1963 -- wholly because an extensive campaign against the disease has been in progress for some time.
The fight against rabies in Buenos Aires is spearheaded by an inoculation programme for young and old alike. It is better to be protected against the disease than to have to undergo treatment -- which is lengthily, painful and not without risk. Another part of the campaign is the control of stray dogs. Work on this and all aspects of rabies control in Buenos Aires is undertaken by the Pasteur Institute -- named after the 19th century French scientist who first devised treatment for the hitherto 100 per cent fatal illness.
The dog teams tour the city streets in their vans and as they come across the strays they are caught and unceremoniously dumped into a carbon monoxide gas chamber and killed.
Sometimes a pet dog nearly gets swept into the executions -- but the owner is usually around to make a last-minute rescue. If these methods seem cruel, they must be weighed against the agony of death by rabies. Once the disease has reached the brain of a hot-blooded animal there is no cure. Nor are there any known sedatives to ease the paroxysms and convulsions that precede death.
However, animals, like humans, can be given protection against rabies and in Buenos Aires most owners have their pets inoculated. The vaccine used today was perfected by a Chilean, Dr. Fuenzalida, and is considered safer than the original Pasteur version.
The anti-rabies vaccines are researched, produced and tested at the Pasteur Institute, where teams of doctors and technicians work with baby mice to provide 100 thousand doses per year. Each dose needs the mouse before its body produces a substance called "mielina", which has been found to be responsible for unpleasant side-effects in vaccination.
The Buenos Aires anti-rabies campaign is backed up by an educational programme, with doctors giving lectures to schools children. However, outside the capital, rabies is still a problem and work will continue for many years in efforts to eliminate it.