Bali’s government has announced it will focus on community education to battle the extended rabies outbreak on the island, which has now killed 105 Balinese.
At a recent meeting with Balinese officials, deputy agriculture minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said increasing public awareness and knowledge about rabies and caring for pets would be crucial in the battle to rid the island of the disease.
“Community education should be our first step in the next three months. We must educate the public so they understand how to protect their pets from diseases and how to maintain the health of their pets,” he said.
He admitted that coordination between the central government, the Bali administration and non-governmental organisations fighting the outbreak was not perfect.
This was illustrated this week too when it emerged that the Finance Ministry is holding up Rp15 billion (US$1.76 million) in emergency anti-rabies funding provided by the central government because it has not yet issued authorising letters.
This has meant there has been no money to pay for vaccine supplies or operational support.
Bali government spokesman I Ketut Teneng said the island’s administration had been waiting since last February for the money.
“Jakarta promised the funding alterations to the 2010 State budget, but this has not been realised. The disbursement was originally promised in February, delayed until May, delayed further until August, then September. Now, here it is November and we still have no explanation from Jakarta.”
Teneng said members of the national legislature’s Commission IV had been asked about the missing funds on a recent visit to Bali but even this had produced no result. Thee promised letters confirming the allocation and specifying its sourcing within the State Budget had apparently yet to be issued.
Mass-immunisation programmes had therefore been put on hold.
A 30-year-old man from Blahbatuh in Gianyar – on the northeastern outskirts of Denpasar – is the latest fatality, the 105th since rabies was belatedly identified at Ungasan on the Bukit in November 2008 following a series of unexplained deaths. The man, who died last Saturday, had not received the post-exposure anti-rabies vaccine.
Sanglah Hospital’s rabies chief, Dr Ken Wirasandi, said the man had been bitten on his right leg about three months ago, but even though the dog was unknown to him – he was at home – he did not get wound care or the anti-rabies vaccine.
He became ill last week.
Bali’s chief medical officer, Dr Nyoman Sutedja, said the increasing notification of dog bites highlighted the main problem in the prevention of rabies in humans. From January until mid-November 2010, the number of cases of dog bites all over Bali was 45,650 with 104 deaths (prior to the latest death). Eight hundred known dog-bite victims did not get anti-rabies vaccine.
“This condition will be the cause of the increasing death toll in 2011, given that the incubation period of the rabies virus is between three months to one year,” said Sutedja. He predicted an increased number of fatalities in January and February.
He said the provincial government had spent Rp38 billion ($4.25 million) on vaccine so far.