Four Buleleng people have died of rabies in recent days, the latest a toddler aged four, sparking fears that the regency may be the new focus of Bali’s uncontrolled rabies outbreak.
The toddler, from Alasangker, died in Buleleng General Hospital on Tuesday. The child, whose father is a health department driver, had been bitten by a dog several weeks ago but was not given the required anti-rabies vaccination course.
Relatives took the child to Buleleng General Hospital only after symptoms synonymous with rabies appeared.
Three other lives have been lost to rabies in Buleleng in the latest spurt of deaths: a 13-year-old girl from Dauh Margi at Pemaron, who was first reported to have been bitten by a rabid cat, since denied by the provincial government; a 50-year-old man from Kaliasem in the Banjar sub-district; and another child, a six-year-old boy from Gungung Sari in Sukusada.
The report that one of the rabies victims had been bitten by an infected cat brought statements from the provincial government that an immediate culling and vaccination programme would be implemented for domestic cats.
But on Monday government spokesman Ketut Teneng said tests had since eliminated rabies as the cause of death and the spread of rabies to Bali’s cat population had been officially discounted.
One local press report said the child had not died of rabies but of a brain infection. (Rabies is a brain disease.)
Announcing the all-clear for Bali’s cats on Monday, Teneng nonetheless warned that people should continue to exercise caution over bites and scratches resulting from contact with any animal during the current rabies outbreak.
Eight of Bali’s local government districts, including Denpasar, are declared rabies zones. Only Jembrana, in the northwest, is still officially free of rabies in dogs.
Rabies was officially declared present in Bali in November 2008 after several unexplained deaths of rabies-like symptoms in the Ungasan area of the Bukit in the far south of the island.
Since then more than 50 people have died, 26 of them confirmed through tests as having had rabies.