Two Children Dead of Rabies as Vaccine Drought Bites


Two Buleleng children have died of rabies, apparently victims of the continuing shortage of government-supplied, free post-exposure anti-rabies vaccine.

The children, a 13-year-old who died at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar on August 21 and a five-year-old who died there next day, had both been bitten by dogs, the five-year-old by a neighbour’s animal.

The five-year-old’s father said he had not been able to buy anti-rabies vaccine because he did not have the money. Privately supplied vaccine can cost hundreds of thousands of rupiah.

The deaths bring Bali’s official toll from rabies to 78 since the disease was identified in the southern Bukit area in November 2008. But estimates of actual deaths now total 85, including seven people who died of rabies-like symptoms but whose bodies were never tested for the disease.

Health authorities finally declared rabies present in Bali months after several unexplained deaths in the Ungasan area of the Bukit from mid-2008.

Sanglah Hospital rabies task force secretary Dr Ken Wirasandhi said this week the two latest victims showed clear symptoms of rabies.

The number of reported dog-bite incidents in Bali is also rising. Five people were bitten by one dog in Karangasem last week, one of them a veterinarian who had been called to treat the dog.

In Tabanan regency, the district with the most deaths from rabies, 17 people were bitten by dogs over the past week.

Supplies of free government-issued anti-rabies vaccine are again running low – a chronic condition the provincial government seems powerless to prevent – with five districts including Denpasar and Badung confirmed as out of stock. Klungkung, Karangasem and Bangli regencies also had no fee vaccine stock this week.

Health Department chief Nyoman Sutedja said the situation was getting more serious with the number of reported dog attacks surging over the past several months.

“So far there have been 36,000 dog-bite incidents reported in Bali, up from 24,000 for the whole of 2009,” Sutedja said. “This surge in the number of cases has overwhelmed us.”

He said his department had originally estimated it would need 19,000 doses of rabies vaccines this year, based on the 12,000 used last year. But the year’s supply of vaccine ran out after six months.

The World Health Organisation has sent 2,600 doses and will send 15,500 next month. The national government is providing 18,000.

The health office said the new supplies would make it possible to send vaccine to all nine local government districts.

The provincial government had allocated Rp7 billion (US$79,000) to buy extra stock of the vaccine, which would take its total to 119,000 doses.

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