Bali’s Rabies Outbreak Makes World Headlines as Crisis Deepens
Bali’s two-year-long rabies outbreak finally hit the world headlines this week when international news agencies and web-based news services “discovered” the crisis and reported last week’s announcement of new measures to combat the spread of the disease.
The death toll, now approaching 80, led to an initial report through the Associated Press headlined “Rabid dogs roam holiday hotspot, kill at least 78.”
The report was picked up by the widely read US-based online newspaper Huffington Post and stories soon appeared in print newspapers in America and around the world.
Several countries, including Australia – which re-emphasised the rabies threat in a travel alert update issued this week (see report, Page 5) – Britain and the US have had warnings to travellers posted for months.
But Bali’s “visibility” on the rabies issue has until now been at a low level, except in Australia.
Observers here had been warning for months that the Bali authorities’ apparent inability to control the spread of the disease would soon make headlines in key tourism markets and possibly make intending travellers change their minds about holidaying here.
This week’s AP report highlighted the case of an eight-year-old boy in Jembrana, the district’s first known rabies death, reported in The Bali Times last week.
It quoted Bali health chief Nyoman Sutedja as saying: “We have a serious problem with the anti-rabies vaccine for humans. We are very short of treatment across the island. We need help.”
The report said Sutedja told AP health authorities expected all stocks of anti-rabies vaccine to run out by next month.
Six of Bali’s nine districts are already out of vaccine, which is supplied free but hospitals charge an administrative fee.
Hospitals across Bali have faced periodic shortages of free post-exposure vaccines since the outbreak began, leaving poor residents with few options. The vaccine remains available at pharmacies, but many Balinese cannot afford them.
Another dog mass vaccination campaign is planned to start next month, backed by donor organisations including the Bali Animal Welfare Association and authorities also plan further culling of stray dogs.
Governor I Made Mangku Pastika, visiting Jembrana this week, warned that Balinese must understand not only the risk of rabies – which is invariably fatal once symptoms appear – but also the need to have the full vaccine course if they are bitten by a suspect animal.Filed under: Headlines