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 Vulnerable regions struggle to deal with rampant rabies virus

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BerichtOnderwerp: Vulnerable regions struggle to deal with rampant rabies virus    do 1 okt 2015 - 10:30





The Jakarta Post, , Padang/Denpasar Thu, October 01 2015


Local authorities in the country’s rabies-prone regions have claimed that the uncontrolled number of stray dogs and slow progress in vaccination programs have impeded their efforts to fully eliminate the transmission of the virus to humans.

Speaking to The Jakarta Post recently, West Sumatra Animal Husbandry Agency’s animal health division head M. Kamil said the number of rabies cases in the province remained high, as the administration had been unable to provide vaccination to all dogs in the province.

“The main factor causing the high number of rabies cases is that our vaccination program can only cover 30-35 percent of the total number of dogs annually, much lower than the minimum 70-percent coverage set by the World Health Organization (WHO),” Kamil said.

The rabies virus, mainly transmitted to humans through the bite of a rabid dog, infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing brain disease and death.

The transmission of the virus, however, can be prevented by vaccinating stray and domestic dogs to reduce the circulating virus load.

As of August this year, seven people in West Sumatra have died due to rabies. Last year, 14 people, and nine others in 2013, also died, making West Sumatra one of the provinces with the highest number of rabies cases in the country.

Earlier this year, the regional administration also found that 72 animals were tested positive for rabies. Last year, it detected 141 infected animals and 150 in 2013.

Kamil said the popular pig-hunting tradition in the province had also contributed to the rampant transmission of the virus, as local people usually preferred to release their wounded or sick hunting dogs, leaving them as stray dogs.

Kamil said there were at least 240,000 dogs in West Sumatra. To prevent rabies transmission, Kamil, for example, said the agency had put down 10,000 stray dogs last year by poisoning them.

“Starting this year, we prefer to catch stray dogs and vaccinate them. However, we still need to cull some 2,000 of them,” he said.

Kamil also said that a 2014 gubernatorial decree on rabies had also stipulated the establishment of border posts along overland routes to check on animals passing the provincial border and vaccinate them if necessary.

Every year, nations across the globe commemorate World Rabies Day on Sept. 28.

In Indonesia, 98 people died last year alone after contracting rabies. The same year, around 73,000 dog attacks on humans were also reported nationwide.

Despite Indonesia’s target to eliminate rabies in humans by 2020, many regions have found it hard to achieve their own targets.

West Sumatra, for example, had previously set a target of achieving rabies-free status by 2005 but later postponed three times to 2007, 2015 and finally 2018.

Bali, another rabies-prone province, will also likely fail to achieve its target to become a rabies-free region this year.

The provincial Health Agency head, I Ketut Suarjaya, said earlier this week that 15 people had died this year in Bali due to rabies.

Data from the agency previously recorded that rabies had claimed two lives in 2014 and one in 2013. Since 2008, a total of 163 people in Bali have died due to rabies.

The Bali Animal Husbandry Agency head, I Putu Sumantra, meanwhile, estimated that the island currently has more than 400,000 dogs.

Apart from providing free vaccination for dogs, agency head Sumantra said, the local adminstration also maintained a policy to cull stray dogs to prevent rabies outbreaks. As of earlier this year, the agency, according to Sumatra, had found 401 stray dogs infected with rabies.

“The stray dogs have caused a major problem as many of them have been spreading rabies and it is hard to control them. That’s why we decided to cull them,” Sumantra said.



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