DENPASAR ~ So far rabies cases reported in Bali have all been due to dog bites, but the government wants people to know rabies can come from any warm-blooded animal, an official said this week.
Secretary of the rabies control team at Sanglah Hospital Dr. Ken Wirasandhi said people often did not know rabies is passed through saliva, so does not necessarily come from bites only.
“If a dog infected with rabies licks you on an open cut or scrape, or licks your hand and you touch your eyes, you are at risk of contracting the virus. You must wash your hands after any contact with a dog, Wirasandhi said on Tuesday.
He said even though the virus can be transmitted through saliva, humans cannot pass it by using the same glass or plates, as it is carried through the blood stream.
Rabies is also very dangerous because it has an incubation period of up to two years, depending on where the virus enters the bloodstream and in the case of a bite, depth of the wound, said Wirasandhi.
He said the recent cases of rabies in Bali were still being investigated.
“We must find out what kind of rabies virus we are dealing with. If it is the same strain as recent cases in West Java, we will know how the virus entered Bali,” he said.
According to Sanglah Hospital officials, 208 people have been treated for dog bites since rabies cases started to appear around November 2008, and at least four have died.
They said for the 208 bite victims, 832 rabies vaccinations had been administered, at a cost of almost Rp100 million (US$8,900).
Meanwhile, Wirasandhi said that a man from Flores living in Nusa Dua had died in hospital of suspected rabies, six months after the 32-year-old was bitten by a dog.
Thomas Aquino died in Sanglah Hospital last Friday.
However, Wirasandhi said they had not yet received the results of Aquino’s blood tests, so they could not be sure he had died from rabies.
Aquino’s cousin, Andreas, said Aquino had been bitten by his neighbor’s dog, who died three days later.
Dr. Wirasandhi said his team was coordinating with the Department of Health to record and watch any suspected rabies cases.