Time for Real Rabies Action
Almost two years and nearly 80 human deaths later, the outbreak of rabies in Bali has ballooned from a few isolated cases in the southernmost Bukit area to infect stray dogs and kill people throughout the island.
It is a deadly picture of chronic eradication-mismanagement that is now making headlines around the world and causing would-be holidaymakers to reconsider travelling to Bali. The lives of people in Bali are not only increasingly at risk but their livelihoods, too.
Nearly eight years ago Bali was devastated by terrorist bombings; now it is becoming mired in a more fatal crisis that is of its own making.
Bali is infested with hundreds of thousands of stray dogs. This is the mobile reservoir of the rabies virus. Cullings and vaccinations have been carried out by the authorities but on nowhere near the scale that is warranted to close off this pool of infection.
Meanwhile, because ordinary Balinese now understand the risk of rabies, the number of people reporting dog bites (and seeking vaccination) is soaring. Bali Health Department chief Dr Nyoman Sutedja said at the weekend that the average has risen to 165 people per day, for a total of over 60,000 a year – more than double previous figures.
For those who are bitten, supplies of rabies vaccine are hard to come by, are not free (the shots are but hospitals charge an administration fee) and in many cases there is none at all. That means that some must return home from hospital only to die an agonising death later. This is a spiralling human tragedy.
None of it need be happening. The solution to this snowballing crisis is an eminently simple one: Teams of officials need to fan out across the island and cull every stray dog in sight.
We can no longer endure bleeding-heart voices from animal-welfare activists here and abroad. The time to “humanely” deal with rabies is over; people are dying. It is inhumane for these activists to put the lives of dogs over those of people. Let us stop the suffering of families as their young children, husbands and wives die. Let us wipe out this scourge now, by eradicating every stray dog we can find. Then we can vaccinate dogs and build real protection for our people.Filed under: Editorial