At least 20,000 people in India die every year due to rabies, accounting for nearly 35 percent of such deaths worldwide, the health ministry said Saturday, the World Rabies Day.
"Rabies kills 20,000 people in India every year and it is virtually 100 percent fatal if appropriate and timely treatment is not taken," the ministry said in a press release.
Rabies is most commonly transmitted by the bite of rabid dogs but it can also spread by bite of a rabid cat, monkey and other animals.
According to the data available with the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 55,000 people succumb to rabies mostly caused by dog bites. Of this, Asia accounts for 31,000 deaths - a majority of them from India.
The global health body said that an estimated 10 million people are treated each year after being bitten by dogs. Of these, 1.8 million receive the treatment in India alone.
Since over 90 percent of the rabies cases are due to a dog bite, what India needs to do is to vaccinate dogs.
The ministry said that safe and effective anti-rabies vaccines are available in the country and facilities for animal bite management are available in anti-rabies treatment centres across the country.
In a do's and don'ts advisory, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that in case of an animal bite, victims should not touch the wound with bare hands and avoid irritants like soil, oil, herbs, chalks and betel leaves.
NICD advises the affected people to apply some antiseptic cream and visit a hospital as soon as possible.