Bali’s rabies crisis is claming more lives and more international media coverage that will hurt the island’s tourism sector.
At least 65 people are now known to have died from the invariably fatal virus, which is largely transmitted by dog bites, following two more recent deaths.
And there’s the crux of this problem: Bali is overrun by wild dogs, with estimates of up to half a million strays roaming the streets and neighbourhoods and biting people at will.
Rabies-vaccination lines at Bali hospitals are long and unending, a sorry testament to the deadly viral reservoir all around us.
Thankfully the vaccination jab remains free for locals and foreigners, a fact confirmed by this newspaper with Sanglah Hospital’s rabies chief Dr Ken Wirasandi when we learned of Balinese being asked to pay for the injection.
Today one of the UK’s leading newspapers, The Independent, reports on Bali’s rabies emergency. The UK government has already issued a Bali rabies warning to people thinking of travelling here.
The Independent, while erroneous in saying vaccinations for people are not free, illustrates the stray-dog explosion in Bali, and says the authorities are taking the matter seriously with culls and vaccinations.
We question just how seriously the government is tackling rabies, because there has been no visible reduction in the number of strays.
The culling of stray dogs is controversial, for some. Animal welfare activists in Bali and overseas are distraught at the measure, and maintain that vaccination of strays is all that is required to render Bali rabies free.
We disagree, as does the Bali government, which has issued a regulation prohibiting stray dogs. Owners, after all, must be responsible for the pets.
There is no doubt about it: Every stray dog in Bali must be removed.
Even without the rabies threat, stray dogs pose a threat. A Bali Times reader commented: “The dangerous dogs ruined my Bali holiday, especially in Ubud. I saw a tourist get cornered and bitten by a pack of dogs in Ubud. It is too dangerous to walk the streets there.”
That should be warning enough for anyone concerned about the welfare of this island and its people.