Yangon hospital reports skyrocketing dog bites

Stray dogs are a common sight throughout the city streets of Yangon.
Stray dogs are a common sight throughout the city streets of Yangon.

The Dog Bite Treatment Center in Myanmar’s dog-bitiest city, Yangon, said this week that its home base, Yangon General Hospital, is set to break its own record for dog bite victims.

Over a five-month period, from January to May, the hospital has treated more than 4,600 patients for bites from man’s best friend slash feral terror. Ten of those patients received treatment for rabies.

“This year, the number of cases have been rising from previous years. We’ve already received almost 1,000 patients every month. Last year, the highest number of patients in a month was in October, when 1,083 patients came for dog bites,” a hospital official told Coconuts Yangon on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Last year, 8,600 patients were treated for dog bites over a 10-month period from January to October at the hospital — the most recently available numbers without enduring a lengthy bureaucratic request process — and 25 people succumbed to rabies infection.

Those eye-popping figures led to Yangon General last month raising the curtain on a dedicated 24-hour Dog Bite Treatment Center.

“The center has been operating since May 29. About 100 people are treated for dog bites per day and the number of cases have been rising every year,” the hospital official said.

The Ministry of Health has plans to open three more dog bite treatment centers in North Okkalapa, Insein and Thingangyun Sanpya, the Myanmar Times reported in March, in order to address the rising number of dog bite cases.

According to a study by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, rabies has become more deadly than even malaria in Myanmar. Despite the existence of proven prevention strategies and an effective vaccine, Myanmar last year saw 70 people die from the disease.

Yangon’s rising stray dog population has been a topic of intense public debate for years now.

The city has routinely conducted citywide culling — normally via poisoning — but has been frustrated by a tendency for neighborhoods to support the stray populations by feeding them.

After drawing ire from animal rights activists and the general public over the mass killings, Yangon temporarily suspended the practice in favor of neutering, vaccinating and rounding up strays to settle them in government animal shelters on the outskirts of town.

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