How to Effectively Wipe Out Rabies in Bali
UBUD ~ In the last week of November, four suspected deaths by rabies near Uluwatu on the Bukit led to the culling of 17 dogs which were suspected of carrying the disease. Because rabies testing takes two weeks and must be done in Java, no confirmed diagnoses for either people or dogs were available at the time of publication.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and is passed through the saliva of infected dogs, monkeys and other animals. If a person is bitten or gets saliva in an open wound or scratch, they should wash the wound with soap and water for 10 minutes and seek medical attention immediately.
If a person is bitten by a suspected rabid animal, they should go to Sanglah Hospital for treatment within 24 hours. Prompt treatment will prevent an infection. The dog should also be identified and monitored for signs of rabies for the next 10 days if possible. Do not kill the animal. Animals infected with rabies will usually die within 3-10 days and normally will hide in a dark quiet spot; so please leave them alone. Do not take dogs in or out of the Bukit. Contact the local authorities or Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) if you see an injured or suspect dog at 0361 981 490, 977-217, sms to 081-138-9004.
People can protect their pets by keeping them in a secure yard or inside their homes and off the beaches in the Jimbaran and Uluwatu areas.
Following the announcement of the rabies outbreak, BAWA immediately contacted its global network of professional advisors. The consensus was that culling (killing) as many street dogs as possible was an ineffective and dangerous practice.
“Culling dogs in an attempt to control rabies is not effective,” reports BAWA.
“This has been proved in many studies around the world, including the experience in Flores. Culling was practiced during the outbreak that began there in 1998 but had no effect on the spread of the disease. Even after half the dog population had been culled island-wide (70 percent in one district), rabies was neither contained nor eliminated. Similar results were experienced when trying to contain a rabies outbreak in Bangalore in India; culling was ineffective.
“Culling also exposes people – even experienced animal handlers – to the serious possibility of being bitten by an infected animal. And culled animals must be carefully disposed of.”
The approved international protocol for rabies management is called ring vaccination. The principle is to isolate the area where the outbreak has appeared by vaccinating all the animals (in this case, dogs) in the surrounding area.
It’s important to vaccinate the potential hosts, not remove them, in order to keep the habitat occupied, at least temporarily, instead of creating a void that will attract more potential carriers of the disease. The second step is to eliminate the threat within the target area. This cannot be done effectively as long as there is the possibility of the threat migrating back in from the surrounding areas.
A classic demonstration of how ring vaccination works, and the catastrophe that results when the principle is ignored, involved the hoof-and-mouth disease epidemic that hit Britain and western continental Europe in early 2001. The Netherlands, Germany, France and other continental nations knew that hoof-and-mouth could spread like wildfire, so immediately practiced very effective ring vaccination to isolate their outbreaks before trying to eradicate the hosts. They stopped the epidemic cold in very little time.
Britain made the mistake of thinking that because it is an island, it was effectively protected already. Instead of practicing ring vaccination, Britain tried to eradicate the hosts right from the start, tragically underestimating the potential for local spreading and re-infection of “cleaned” areas. Britain ended up fighting the outbreak for most of a year, and ultimately achieved eradication only by doing ring vaccination, many months after the whole epidemic was over on the mainland.
Fortunately the rabies outbreak has only appeared in the Bukit, a lightly populated peninsula. This is an ideal area to apply ring vaccination. By isolating the Bukit and preventing dogs from crossing to the populous Denpasar/Kuta area, vaccinating at least 70 percent of the healthy dogs on the Bukit and culling the sick ones, the disease can be effectively contained. Following this initiative, the dogs in Denpasar/Kuta and along the west coast should be vaccinated. Failure to do so may unleash a hazardous and probably unmanageable epidemic in Bali, exposing its people to danger while having a serious, negative impact on tourism.
An infection-free Bali can be achieved by mass vaccination and sterilization of all stray and owned dogs, cats and other pets. We hope rabies vaccines will soon be widely available. Please do not bring in animals from other islands. Bali was virtually free of most diseases just a decade or two ago, but diseases were introduced via the transmigration of animals.
Please help BAWA help Bali’s beautiful dogs, cats and other animals. Your donations go 100 percent to sterilization programs, education and rescue programs. Help us purchase the vaccines needed to keep our island safe. www.bawabali.com
This article was written by BAWA and is in place of the usual column by Elizabeth Henzell, which will return next week.