Tests on dogs in 10 villages in Bali in the past 12 months showed no signs of rabies, but elsewhere three dogs tested positive for the killer disease, the island’s Animal Husbandry Department chief has said. Meanwhile, another two patients died of suspected rabies this week, with medical staff at Denpasar’s Sanglah hospital reporting that there has been no drop-off in the number of dog-bite victims reporting for treatment.
Wayan Laut from Nusa Penida and I Putu Dewen from Bangli both died on Sunday. Relatives reported that Laut had been bitten by a dog about four months ago. Dewan had been bitten by a dog in his home village two years ago. Neither man had received post-bite vaccination.
“The symptoms show that they were infected with the rabies virus,” said the head of the rabies taskforce at Sanglah, Ken Wirasandi.
He said that there had been no noticeable decline in the number of dog-bite victims reporting to government hospitals across Bali for treatment over the first two months of 2011. On average 130 people were receiving post-bite vaccination every day, he said.
Last Friday Animal Husbandry Department chief Putu Sumantra told a press conference in Denpasar that test results on dogs in some villages indicated Bali was winning its two-year war against the virus that has claimed at least 120 lives.
“From the samples we can see there is a tendency of a decrease. For example, from 11 dog brains that we sent (for testing) only three were positive. Before, it was quite high,” he said.
The sampling indicated that no rabies was present in Kuta or Pulau Serangan, and that several villages in Gianyar were also rabies-free, Sumantra said.
Since last September the department has been working with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) in Ubud in carrying out a rabies-vaccination programme on dogs around the island, in place of a previous policy of culling.
Sumantra said on Friday that the scheme was now 79-percent complete, and that the dog population of Bali was estimated at around 400,000. Only 70 percent of those are being inoculated against rabies, a threshold which it is thought will prevent the virus from replicating. Booster shots are to follow at later dates.
The authorities are rushing to eradicate rabies in Bali by the end of next year as international headlines have warned off some would-be visitors to the island, prompting fears of a resultant tourism downturn. The Australian and United States governments have issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens from travelling to Bali due to the rabies risk.
Sumantra also said that Bali would be readying 750 quarantine cages to house stray dogs in villages around Bali, and he would be reminding the human population of the island to take responsible care of their animals and not allow them to freely roam the streets.
“Dogs that are wandering around will be caught, but later, during the implementation of the vaccination programme, we will be asking the public to please keep their dogs tied up or in the yards of their homes.”
Meanwhile, BAWA issued a statement this week in which it vowed to “live up to our promise” in vaccinating dogs in Bali.
“Vaccination was the key word in 2010, and it will still be the key word in 2011,” director Janice Girardi said, adding that last year BAWA inoculated over 125,000 dogs around Bali.
“With the current pace, we are optimistic that we will be able to vaccinate 70 percent of the province’s dog population by the end of March this year,” Girardi, an American jewellery designer, said.
“We will live up to our promise.”
Editorial: RABIES RISK